Huge queues as new coronavirus test centre branded a ‘shambles’

Wirral’s new Covid-19 testing centre was today described as a “shambles” after families were made to queue for hours to get a test.

The semi-permanent facility, located on the car park at the Hamilton Building on Conway Street, in Birkenhead, was set up amid a worrying rise in the borough’s infection numbers, but locals were frustrated as some reported waiting for as long as two hours for a test.

Case numbers have risen across Wirral, with 101 infections recorded in the most recent weekly figures between August 29 and September 4.

That represents a huge rise in the space of just a couple of weeks.

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In the seven days between August 15 and August 21 there were 24 coronavirus cases in the borough.

The new test centre should be able to gauge how much the virus has spread within the borough. The site opened on Saturday and will now be open between 8am and 8pm every day of the week.

Posting on the Facebook group Eastham Matters, one person said: “If you can drive or be driven, avoid the walk-in testing facility at Birkenhead and go to Deeside drive in facility.

“Complete shambles!"

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The person said they were particularly annoyed as they had booked an appointment to avoid queuing, but claimed they had to queue anyway.

On the post the person claimed they turned up at their allocated time but were told to "register their details and join the back of the queue" in the "cool conditions".

The post added: "“Why there isn't two systems, splitting testing staff (e.g. 2 for walk-ins and 2 for all appointments) is beyond me!”

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Another member of the group, said: “This is not good and not thought out at all.”

Queues appeared to be very long until lunchtime, with people reporting much shorter waiting times of around 30 minutes shortly after 2pm.

Those who got in the queue from this point onwards seemed far more content with the experience.

Katherine Booth told the ECHO that she did not mind waiting for around half an hour, while Connor Smedley said his wait was even shorter.

Others said that they were allowed to go to the front of the queue if they had booked an appointment.

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There seemed to be an acceptance that the new test centre would not be able to see everyone straight away, although those caught in the biggest queues seemed to be annoyed at the extent of their wait.

Wirral Council said the new testing centre had proved very busy since it opened, so for the time being if people want a guaranteed appointment they should book one via the council website.

As well as the Conway Street testing site, the mobile testing unit will be stationed at Europa Leisure Centre in Birkenhead from Tuesday, September 8, until Saturday, September 12, and Wirral’s satellite testing centre in Bidston operates seven days a week.

There will also be two more local testing sites in Bebington and Liscard opened towards the end of this week. In addition, there is an option for people to use a home test kit.

Some have begun to fear the prospect of a local lockdown in Wirral as case numbers rise.

On Friday, Cllr Pat Hackett, leader of Wirral Council, said there was a “very real risk” of a local lockdown in the borough.

He also made this plea to local people, which the local authority wanted to reiterate today.

Cllr Hackett said: “I ask you to please go back to the basics: wash your hands frequently, keep your distance, wear your face covering and if you think you have symptoms, self-isolate and get tested – details on how to get a test are available here.”

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