PEOPLE in need of a Covid-19 test are “being let down massively” by a system which often asks people to make journeys of more than 70 miles.

One Colchester mum, who asked not to be named, said she had been trying to get her daughter tested since last Wednesday.

“She doesn’t have symptoms but has to have a negative test for work,” she said.

“There are no local tests, the nearest at one point was Norwich – also Oldham and Ramsgate were offered.

“Eventually I managed to get Colchester, but didn’t get an email confirmation. So when she turned up they couldn’t do it.

“I then managed to get a slot for Ipswich, but again there was no confirmation. This is a crazy system, which is letting us down massively.”

In a letter to Colchester MP Will Quince, Lee Scordis, Colchester councillor for Old Heath and Hythe, reported “several” residents in his ward had been unable to book a Covid-19 test over the past two weeks.

“With the R rate expected to rise at this time of year and with the easing of lockdown and gradual return of every day life it is unacceptable that people are unable to book a test,” he said.

“One resident tried to book a test and was asked to travel to Norwich, another to Northampton.

“Many worried parents have been trying daily to book slots, even trying the system at 5am, with the same results.”

He added: “The government has urged people to return to work and for children to return to school, with some ministers accusing those not returning to the office of being reckless.

“While it is vital our children return to school, it is also vital that we have an effective test and trace system in place.

“We cannot expect a child who is showing symptoms to either quarantine for two weeks or re-enter the school spreading the infection further. The same can also be said for teachers and other key workers.

“This delay is not only detrimental to our key services but also to the economy. We have become the laughing stock of Europe.”

The R number, a method of monitoring the growth of the virus in England, stood between 1 and 1.2 as of yesterday.

From yesterday, any social gathering of more than six people is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure.

In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Health and said: “NHS Test and Trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are seeing a significant demand for tests including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.

“New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.

“Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster.

"If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself by washing your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.”