Coronavirus: Gateshead testing plan ‘held up by government’

Related Topics Coronavirus pandemic image copyrightPA Media image captionThe government said it was increasing the

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A medical worker swabs a motorist at a testing centre

image copyrightPA Media

image captionThe government said it was increasing the number of mobile testing centres

Health chiefs in an area battling a Covid-19 spike say they are unable to carry out up to 30,000 tests per day while they wait for government action.

Gateshead was

among several places in the North East added to Public Health England’s watchlist of areas needing “enhanced support” last week.

The council said an empty pathology lab could be used to house extra resources.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “increasing the testing coming into the area”.

Gateshead’s director of public health, Alice Wiseman, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One “people are having great difficulty getting a test”.

“We’re up to 70 cases per 100,000 so it’s a significant increase. With not everyone able to get a tested, it’s likely to be much higher than that,” she said.

“I understand there’s an issue in terms of capacity and being able to process the tests. We’ve offered a solution – Gateshead’s old pathology lab is currently standing empty.

“We’ve got the space, the building, the infrastructure. We just need the government to put the resources in so we can get cracking on the testing.”

On Saturday, a mobile testing unit requested by the council did not turn up and 30 people had to be redirected to Newcastle for Covid-19 checks.

The unit eventually arrived on Sunday.

On a visit to County Durham earlier, Mr Hancock said the government was “working very closely” with North East councils.

“Of course when you have an operation of this scale making sure each bit of it works perfectly smoothly is always a challenge, but the most important thing people can do is work together and follow the social distancing rules,” he said.

“We are increasing the testing that’s coming into the area and we need to do that because we need to get control of this virus.”

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