Covid-19 testing capacity issues

There is a national shortage of Covid-19 testing capability and Wokingham Borough Council is taking a twin approach to help local people until the issue is resolved.

The council has been lobbying Central Government for adequate testing locally and will continue to push for local sites and sufficient capacity. But, with demand currently exceeding supply, it is important that people call NHS 111 if they believe they have Covid symptoms and seek advice before requesting a test

Executive member for Adult Social Care Cllr Charles Margetts said: “This is a national issue that is impacting people across the country – but we need to act in the interests of our residents and that is why we are calling on Central Government to ensure everybody who needs a test in the borough can get one. We have written to our local MPs and raised this issue through all the appropriate channels and will continue to do so until it is resolved.”

Demand for testing is increasing and priority is being given to areas of concern (those with more Covid cases), which means areas with a lower number of cases (such as Wokingham Borough) are having less capacity.

Some of the increase in demand is being caused by people seeking tests when they do not need to, and Public Health teams are calling on residents to only get tested if they have symptoms or have been told to by the local authority or Public Health.

Meradin Peachey, Acting Director of Public Health Berkshire, said: “We understand that there are national constraints in the processing of test results which is limiting the availability of tests locally.  The testing system is prioritising areas of the country where there are higher levels of Covid infections.  Berkshire has lower case numbers than elsewhere in the country and in the last week over 97% tests on Berkshire residents were negative.”  

The national guidance on when to seek a test is: 

  • If you have any symptoms of Covid, you should isolate and seek a test by phoning 119 or booking online.  The symptoms to look out for are fever, a continuous cough and loss of taste or smell.  If you do not have symptoms you do not need a test unless you are part of a group of health and care workers who receive regular testing.
  • If you have been identified as a contact of a case then you should isolate for 14 days. 14 days covers the incubation and infectious periods of the infection.  You do not need a test unless you have symptoms but if you do have a test and it comes back negative, you still need to isolate for the whole period.  The same applies if you are isolating having returned from overseas.

Cllr Margetts added: “I understand the desire to get tested ‘just in case’ or if you are self-isolating, but the truth is that is not helpful to you or our wider community. We need to push for more testing capacity locally, but we also need to be responsible in our use of that capacity, so I am urging residents to keep following the rules – as we have done so far - and leave tests to those who really need them.”