People with Covid symptoms are being advised to hack test systems by using remote zip codes to secure tests locally, some told Guardian.
There is increasing pressure on the government as people across the UK report that testing cannot be secured locally. Some have more than 4 hours round trip and some don’t get a swab at all, even after serving the site more than 400 miles away. Even in the 10 worst-hit coronavirus hotspots in the UK, many reported that they couldn’t get tested.
In Southwest London, commercial manager Ellie Bell and her husband, a teacher, spent five hours refreshing the government testing website on Monday because their two youngest children coughed.
There was nothing but 135 miles round trip. It was so stuffy that I almost threw my laptop out of the window. The inspection helpline said it would be faster to wait for quarantine for two weeks than to get tested because of the shortage of supplies.
Bell said her friend had advised her to go to the London test center on Monday. We arrived at the test center and the on-site staff asked. How many exams do you want? She said. They booked a test on Aberdeen to get a QR code, tricked the system by manipulating the zip code, and then used that code to run the test. The negative test results arrived the next morning.
I was totally embarrassed to see the place too empty. The staff were great and it seems that I was relieved to meet people. Ive told another London friend to take the exam by default.
Ellie Bells returned to school for a while with three children earlier this month. She spent five hours scheduling the exam, but the center in southwest London was empty. Photo: Guardian Community
Similar reports have been made in Yorkshire. Photographer Gavin Kaps, who has a cough, smell or taste, stuffy nose, and fatigue, couldn’t schedule an exam anywhere on the weekend.
There was literally no option, so I went directly to the test center. When I got there on Sunday, I was approached by an afflicted employee who could see the car in front of me turning around.
He asked me if I had any promises and said the government couldn’t accept people without promises. He admitted that the center was not busy and agreed that it would be impossible to schedule an exam when the capacity was clear.
Kaps said the staff advised him to park in a layman and try to book online. Then a supervisor came and said that he was using the fake zip code to book an appointment elsewhere.
He said that if I can do that and get a QR code for an appointment, I can use that QR code to scan for testing. He continued speaking to the rest of the cars waiting in the layman. Glasgow Prestwick’s zip code was used to try and book an appointment in Preston, Manchester, Doncaster, Leeds, Guildford and Sheffield before finding an appointment.
I didn’t have a line so I could go straight in An employee came up to me and asked for the zip code I used so I could pass it on to someone else to get the QR code. I have done my duty. Everything was tragic. Someone should be responsible for this. To get tested for coronavirus, you need to hack your system.
After that, he was concerned that the system might come to believe that Glasgow’s center is experiencing more demand than the truth. He received negative results within 24 hours.
Oxford Mail also said that the test center staff had made a loophole to people to secure test appointments.
In Commons, Twickenham’s Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson said voters had secured a local test after being advised to provide an Aberdeen zip code, and asked if health secretary Matt Hancock was advocating system games. How do the world’s best test and tracking systems on Earth work this way? She asked.
Hancock said: It is our responsibility to take a responsible approach and tell voters that tests are available in bulk and average travel distance is 5.8 miles. People should take this system seriously, not a game.
Meanwhile, in Bolton, where regional closures were imposed due to increasing cases, even people with symptoms were unable to secure tests in the area.
Cath Dodds and her family in August. She said the test center was empty with Carlyle. Photo: Guardian Community
Site engineer Cath Dodds, whose young daughter suffers from chronic lung disease and asthma, coughing and body temperature, had to make a 240-mile round trip after three days of trying to get tested locally.
She said she had to use a fake zip code to book an exam in Carlisle, more than four hours round trip. This is a hotspot. If it’s so bad in Bolton, why can’t we take the test? In the paper we kept reading the new test center popping up, but we didn’t see it.
Sunday morning at the test center in Carlyle, she said: The parking lot was empty. We sat there for 30 minutes and none of them entered the test center. I don’t understand what’s going on. She is waiting for the result.
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