Mobile testing unit in Oban but no news on numbers tested

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A mobile testing unit for the coronavirus in Oban has been in town again after a nightmare for people trying to book tests online.

Overseen by the Armed Forces, the UK Government ‘MTU’ was at the Longsdale Car Park next to the Atlantis Leisure Centre between noon and 3pm on Wednesday and today with no appointment necessary.

Its arrival has been described as being in response to ‘ongoing online’ booking issues.

There were complaints this week about people in Oban having to spend ‘hours’ online trying to organise tests and then being given appointments miles away.

Aisling Clark, a teacher at Oban High School, managed to get a test but only after having been given the runaround and being offered one in Portree, Isle of Skye – 151-miles away.

On Wednesday at least, around half way through the three-hour session in Oban, just three cars were in attendance.

A handful of soldiers and health workers in high visibility apparel and masks outnumbered those attending for tests.

But Army representatives at the scene declined to comment on how many people in Oban had attended for testing on Wednesday.

It referred inquiries to the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) in Westminster.

DHSC did not provide numbers about the amount of people tested in Oban, nor did it provide future dates for the MTU in the town.

With around 300 MTU testing sites it did not do localised promotion of these although this was often done by councils, it said.

The DHSC added that when booking a test people are directed to the nearest site with availability that day.

In a statement, it said: ‘NHS Test and Trace is working, it’s completely free and testing centres are open for people to book a test if they need one.

‘There has been high demand for appointments at some sites, but more will be available to book every day and home testing kits can still be ordered.

‘Anyone with symptoms across the UK should get a test as soon as possible as well as washing hands regularly, wearing face coverings and following social distancing rules to stop the spread of the virus.’

Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership has actively promoted the MTU’s arrival in Oban across social media channels including Facebook.

Donald Cameron, shadow health secretary and MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said the town owed thanks to the Army for providing a mobile testing unit for local people.

He added: ‘However, the Army can’t be everywhere, so it is incumbent on the local agencies to ensure that the availability of the resource is well advertised so that as many people as possible, who have cause to be tested, are able to attend.

‘It would be a very great shame if some people at risk missed this chance of being tested because of a lack of prior notice.’

Councillor Julie McKenzie, represents Oban North and Lorn for the SNP, on Argyll and Bute Council.

She said: ‘There have been issues over the past few days with the online booking system and that has also caused some local concern for people in the Oban area.

‘I am confident that the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership is doing all that it can to resolve this issue. The issue has been with the national UK Government booking system.’

Councillor McKenzie believes the service locally had seen a surge in demand because of the return to school of pupils who tended to develop bugs with covid-like symptoms.

NHS Highland said that since the schools had gone back there had been a ‘significant increase’ in requests for testing across Highland and Scotland.

Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland, appealed to the public to only book a test if they had symptoms.

Dr Allison said: ‘We have seen a sharp rise in the number of requests for tests since the schools have gone back, particularly from parents who have concerns about their children.

‘Anyone with symptoms of covid-19 should be tested. You can book a test for yourself, someone you care for, or a child in your care but you only need to book a test if you have symptoms or you have been explicitly asked to get a test by our public health team.

‘A test can be booked by calling 0800 028 2816 or visiting the NHS Inform website.  You do not need to call NHS 24 to organise a test.’

The Department for Health and Social Care said people with symptoms can book or order a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus.

It said essential workers and members of their households can access priority testing at https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test-essential-workers.

Those unable to access the internet can call 0300 303 2713 in Scotland to book a test, said DHSC.

Further information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works#people-who-have-had-close-contact-with-someone-who-has-coronavirus