How I was told to game the system to get coronavirus test for my sick child

PUBLISHED: 10:02 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:04 17 September 2020

Sandra Squire found a work-around to book a test by putting in a postcode from another part of the UK. Photo: Norfolk Independent Group.

Sandra Squire found a work-around to book a test by putting in a postcode from another part of the UK. Photo: Norfolk Independent Group.

Norfolk Independent Group

Faced with a sick child and unable to book a coronavirus test online, Sandra Squire drove to her nearest test centre in the hope of being let in.

She had been trying to book a slot for her 10-year old, Bob, over the weekend, but there were none available.

Across the country, people who have booked tests have been turned away for not receiving a QR code when they registered online.

But Mrs Squire, leader of Norfolk County Council’s independent group, found a work-around.

Staff at the Wisbech testing centre on Sunday told her to put in a Scottish or Welsh postcode, rather than a Norfolk one, when booking a slot.

She could then book a test in Scotland or Wales and be sent a QR code - and that code would work for Wisbech too, meaning her son could get a test.

“It is about as ridiculous a situation as you can get,” she said. “They had a list of postcodes in areas that you can book for, so advised me to try them.

“You then get a QR code, which any test centre can scan.

“We inputted a Welsh postcode and booked a test at a Welsh test centre which was then actually done in Wisbech.”

The county councillor for Marshland North added: “The staff in Wisbech were fantastic, but they’re sitting there with hardly anyone to test due to the system.

“If we want children in school and for families to feel safe, easy access to testing is key to that.”

Mrs Squire accused those running the national test and trace system of “total incompetence” after people reported widespread problems booking tests for the last week.

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‘Gentle persuasion got me a test’

Another mum said she used the same trick to book a test in County Antrim for her daughter so she could get a QR code to use in Norfolk.

But when she went to the drive-through site at Postwick Park and Ride on Wednesday, she said the code did not work.

She said: “Upon arrival there were 10 or so men standing around and one asked to see the code, I got told to call a number and speak to another man.

“He asked me why I’d gone to Postwick with a Northern Ireland code and I explained it was for my daughter who had a cough, borderline temperature, was asthmatic and off school.

“With some gentle persuasion, he said he’d let my daughter get tested as could see she was poorly.”

She added that she only saw six cars being tested and lots of spaces available.

NHS Test and Trace said last week that problems were not being caused by a lack of capacity at testing sites, like Postwick, but in the labs where the tests are processed.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, said many of her constituents had also “gamed the system” by using Scottish postcodes to book a test in London.

She said: “How on earth is a world-beating test and trace system functioning in this way?”

In response, the government said yesterday it would start prioritising tests and was increasing capacity to record levels.


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