Published: 13:30, 03 September 2020
| Updated: 13:45, 03 September 2020
People needing Covid tests are being told to travel hundreds of miles to test centres outside of Kent - despite sites in the county sitting virtually empty.
Those attempting to book an appointment at the Manston test centre through the government's online booking service are being given slots in Edinburgh, some 470 miles away, or Harwich Port, 130 miles up the coast in Essex.
Teresa Drury, from Broadstairs, was told to travel the 300 miles to Manchester Airport when she tried to book and not even given the option of using Manston, just a 10 minute drive from her home.
"We tried three days on the trot. I'd put in my postcode but got offered Manchester, Folkestone and Ashford - Manston didn't even come up as an option when we tried," she said.
"Whenever I drove past the site it was always empty yet we were told we couldn't get tested there without an appointment. It was really frustrating.
"The test was for a family member who, it turns out, had a cold, but she works in retail so had to get tested and she couldn't work until she had.
"The government says it is trying to get the country back on its feet and the economy moving so it's bizarre that this is happening. You can't help but feel suspicious.
"Why isn't something being done to resolve it or even the government admitting there are problems?
"Manston has capacity for 1,200 people a day, yet it's empty. Why don't they run a turn-up system there, where you can just drive up and get tested without an appointment?"
Mrs Drury says when she rang the 119 registration phone line she was firstly told there was an admin error in the booking system and then that Manston was fully booked, despite her driving past and seeing no cars in the testing bays.
"I went past on three occasions, at different times of the day, and each time the site was empty with the people who worked there just standing around," she added.
She is not the only one to have experienced problems with booking.
Anthony Hall, from Broadstairs, says he tried to book a slot online to have a swab test at Manston for his two-year-old daughter after she started showing symptoms of Covid.
"The only option I was given was Harwich Port in Essex," he said.
"In the end I drove to Manston, which was empty except for one other car, and one of the guys working there said they'd had people coming in who had been told to go to Edinburgh.
"Because my daughter was showing symptoms they allowed us to be tested, but I've heard from others that this isn't always the case."
Problems are also being seen at the testing centre in Ebbsfleet, where people needing a test are being directed miles from their home.
Many have reportedly been offered appointments in Wales and the Midlands, while others claim the Ebbsfleet test site has been "empty" in recent weeks.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) insists there has been no reduction in national testing capacity.
A spokesman said: "NHS Test and Trace is working – we are working to increase national testing capacity and hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day.
"There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible.
"To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.
"We are expanding testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October – as well as bringing in new technology to process tests even faster."