Some Swindon residents trying to book a coronavirus test are being sent to centres as far away as Newport, it has emerged.

It came ahead of the latest government watchlist being published. Last week, Public Health England upped Swindon’s ranking on the table from being an area of concern to one requiring “enhanced support”. So far, that has meant the government ensuring continued access to test facilities in the town.

Borough health officials said 3,500 people had been tested for covid at Swindon’s test centres in Wroughton and at the County Ground in the past week.

But Steve Maddern, director of public health at the council, couldn’t be sure how many people being tested at the regional centre at the Wroughton Park and Ride and the pop-up site in the town centre were from out of area.

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The County Ground testing site. It will shut temporarily over the weekend to ensure people can get to Swindon Town's first round match against Charlton Athletic Picture: DAVE COX

What to do if you’re struggling to book a test

His advice to those struggling to book a slot for the Swindon test centres via the government website was to “keep trying” or call the NHS covid helpline on 119.

Mr Maddern said: “We know locally there have been some cases where people have been unable to book onto the Swindon test site whether that be the County Ground or Wroughton. Our testing capacity at this moment in time is being protected because we are in that enhanced support status.

“The advice I have been given at this moment in time is that if people are struggling to get onto the portal to book a local Swindon test is to keep trying.

“Failing that, requesting a test via NHS 119 is also an alternative option, but the capacity in Swindon is good.

“In the past week we’ve done just shy of 3,500 tests, so there doesn’t seem to be an issue on the ground in getting a test. To us that’s positive as well.”

National problem

When you try and book a test on the government’s website it will ask you for your name, number, email address and postcode. The idea is to prevent you from having to travel too far to get tested.

But a check this morning shows that the closest test centre for those living in SN1 is – apparently – a colliery in south Wales 82 miles away, despite there being a regional test centre at the bottom of Croft Road.

The website says there are no walk-in test centre slots available.

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A check of the website this morning showed this was the closest test centre 

The issue has been reported nationally, with the head of the NHS Test and Trace system apologising for the shortage of slots.

UK labs were said to be at full capacity. Around 170,000 tests were being processed daily compared to 100,000 in June.

Officials said a new lab would open in the next few weeks and by Friday – today – no one would be asked to travel more than 75 miles to get tested, although that is at odds with the fact Swindon residents are still being offered tests 80 miles down the M4.

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The Marine Colliery in Cwm, near Newport, 82 miles away from Swindon Picture: GOOGLE

Future of Swindon’s test centres (and a match day hiatus)

As an area of enhanced support, Swindon Borough Council has secured assurances from the government that the town will continue to have access to test facilities.

However, the pop-up test centre in the County Ground car park, which was set up at the start of August, will shut down temporarily over the weekend as Swindon Town returns to the pitch on Saturday to face Charlton Athletic.

The test site will return to the car park next week, although council officials are looking at alternative locations in the town centre where the centre could be re-sited longer term.