Key workers have reportedly been queuing for hours outside Bristol Airport’s new coronavirus test centre, while the city’s other drive-thru site has been seen empty.
The quieter scenes at Ashton Gate stadium are likely due to fewer people being eligible for testing there, as it is solely for staff at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust who have symptoms. The airport centre is open to all key workers who have symptoms.
A video posted by photographer Ben Birchall showed the test site deserted on Friday, in contrast to a long queue of people waiting to get into neighbouring Halfords.
He said he did not see anyone entering the mobile test centre during an hour-long period, and that it was also empty when he passed there on Saturday.
Bristol Live has also heard from a number of nearby residents who say they are yet to see someone getting tested at the site.
Bristol Airport’s drive-thru site opened last week to all key workers who have COVID-19 symptoms, and is the only Bristol testing site available for bookings through the government’s website.
A photo shared on the airport’s Facebook page last Wednesday, April 22, showed cars lining up outside.
The government’s website advises people to allow up to an hour to be tested at the site, in case there is a queue.
However, several people have reported being sat there for much longer. One Twitter user claimed her son had been there for three hours and was not allowed to open his window.
Some people have been making lengthy journeys to access the facility, particularly as no available slots are showing up for testing sites in Wales.
One key worker tweeted this morning, April 28: “Having to travel to Bristol Airport for a Covid 19 test because there hasn’t been any available in Wales for over a week. Road trip.”
Another, Deb, tweeted on Sunday: “Just done a 2 hour round trip to Bristol Airport for Covid 19 test. Time slot booked. They’ve run out of tests.”
Bristol Live has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.
The site is being managed in partnership with Boots and G4S, and Sodexo is currently advertising for test operatives to take the swabs.
Ashton Gate’s site is being run by Bristol Ambulance on behalf of the NHS trust, and is separate to the pop-up testing sites being rolled out by the government.
With national scrutiny of the health secretary’s pledge to carry out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, passers-by have questioned why they have not seen more people being tested there.
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust declined to comment.
The test site was not designed for use by the wider public, and is only available for the trust’s staff who have pre-booked an appointment.
Last week the trust declined to comment on how many tests had been carried out at the site since it opened almost a month ago.
Neither of the test sites offer walk-ins and anyone who attends will need to have pre-booked, either via their line manager for Ashton Gate, or via the government’s website for Bristol Airport.
Only people with symptoms are being tested.