RESIDENTS are struggling to book a coronavirus test online even if they are showing symptoms, despite the Worcester testing centre being open and "very quiet" – prompting a councillor and former NHS worker to accuse the government of "failing" in its response to the pandemic.

Yesterday one of our reporters tried to book a test through the government’s website, after reports of issues with the online service, but he could not get a date or venue.

Before he started he was given this message: “If you have coronavirus symptoms, you need to get a test done as soon as possible. You need to get the test done in the first five days of having symptoms.”

He then completed a questionnaire, stating he had a Worcestershire postcode, displayed potential symptoms of the deadly virus and had access to a car.

A message at the end of the questionnaire stated: “This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours. Do not call the helplines – you will not be able to get a test this way.”

There was no option to even travel outside of the county for testing and he got the same result when he tried again two hours later.

However, when the same reporter visited the testing centre outside Sixways Stadium yesterday afternoon to see whether the site was closed, the facility was operating but "very quiet" with only two drivers passing through for a test in the space of 30 minutes.

Samantha Charles, a Malvern Hills district councillor who worked for the NHS for 20 years and is now a sexual offences forensic medical examiner, said: “As a councillor, parent and key healthcare worker, I call on the government to take responsibility for the failure of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People with symptoms who can’t get a test can’t go to work, their children can’t go to school and whole year groups are being sent home across the country only a week after schools reopening.

“They’ve had six months to create a robust, publicly run, test, track and trace system before lifting lockdown and reopening schools. The failure is wholly theirs.

“The Prime Minster blamed the problems with the privately run track and trace system on a huge surge in demand, ‘particularly from people who don’t have symptoms’.

“However people who do have symptoms still can’t get a test for themselves or their children without travelling way further than what the Prime Minster says is the ‘median journey of 10 miles’. It’s not so long ago that the government promised 100 per cent testing.”

Readers have commented on the issue of testing on the Facebook page of the Worcester News.

Jay Martin: “Shame there’s no local testing readily available. No home kits and the nearest testing centre is Leicester...but no available appointments.”

Catherine Mulvey: “I had a test at Sixways [Stadium] on Saturday and it was deserted. Us and one other car. Someone on the same day said they were being told to go to Oldbury.”

Hayley Lewis said: “Took all of Saturday to book a test though, finally slots popped up on Sunday morning.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council said; “We are aware that some residents are struggling to book a test for Covid in the local area. Worcestershire is having the same difficulties as other parts of the country. There is also a national issue in accessing home testing kits.

“If you have Covid-19 symptoms and are unable to arrange a test, please don’t give up, keep trying, and in the meantime it is really important that you still self -isolate for 10 days from the first day of your symptoms.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week.

“We are seeing a significant demand for tests but if you have symptoms we urge you to get tested. New booking slots and homes testing kits are made available daily and you can help protect yourself if you wash your hands, cover your face and make space.

“We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups and we recently announced new laboratory facilities and new technology to process results even faster.”