More than 10,000 coronavirus tests have been done in Lincolnshire this week, despite delays and capacity issues with the booking system, health bosses have claimed.
Since the government gave lab priority given to areas with the highest rate of infection, many residents in Lincolnshire found themselves unable to book tests, with some trying to get one for 2-3 days or longer.
Many others have been forced to take long journeys as far as Leicester or Oldham for a test.
Meanwhile, the Lincolnshire Showground testing site has often looked deserted this week, despite the thousands of tests carried out (including home tests).
Lincolnshire County Council’s director of public health Derek Ward said that in the seven days to September 15, some 10,000 tests were carried out in the county.
Of those, 89 were confirmed to be positive – just under 1% of cases and a drop from the 1.5% positive rate last week.
“Considering the challenges that everybody’s seeing in trying to get a test, they’re obviously persevering,” he said.
“The percentage of tests that are positive has gone down over the past week. We’ve done more tests but our positive rates have come down.”
He said that was a proxy for the area’s R-rate, how fast the infection might spread in the county.
“As long as we keep it around that level I don’t think R is increasing massively, unless people who have the virus aren’t getting tested and I don’t have the data to suggest that.”
However, Professor Ward added: “I do suspect that over the next couple of weeks the number of tests might decrease. I’ll be very surprised if we keep it at that level.”
Professor Ward said the problems with booking tests should improve over the next few weeks as new labs were brought online.
He said nationally testing capacity was increasing, with nearly 250,000 tests available daily.
He also repeated calls for people not to book a test if they do not have one of the main three symptoms, with national figures estimating a quarter of tests were for asymptomatic people.
“We don’t want people getting a speculative test – if people need a test because they’re going to be flying or their company demands one, you can go online and pay for a test through private routes,” he said.
People have been told not to simply turn up for without having booked a test at the Lincolnshire Showground, specifically because it causes issues for data.
Professor Ward also urged people not to turn up to accident and emergency departments or GP offices, as they don’t have testing facilities for the general public.