PEOPLE with Covid-19 symptoms in West Berkshire will be able to book a test if they “persevere”.

That’s the message from councillor Lynne Doherty, leader of West Berkshire Council, who is trying to reassure people frustrated by the testing booking system.

People in West Berkshire and various other parts of the country have been complaining about being unable to book a test at a nearby site, as NHS Test and Trace struggles to keep up with rising demand.

Cllr Doherty said: “If you go down to the Newbury Showground testing site – I pass it every day – it looks very quiet and it is.

“This is frustrating for residents who don’t realise the issue is not with testing, the issue is with the labs’ ability to process those tests.

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“I speak, on a daily basis, with our public health team and I’m being told that if people persevere they will get through and we should be encouraging people to make sure they have symptoms of Covid (before booking a test).

“Part of the issue is we’re finding people who don’t have symptoms are coming forward for testing rather than going into isolation.”

She added: “We’re trying to say to people they need to make sure they have symptoms or are being told to go and get a test by a medical professional.”

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there has been “a huge, huge surge in demand” and around 240,000 tests are being conducted every day.

He also said the UK conducts more Covid-19 tests than any other European country and it wants to “get up to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October”.

Areas of concern, which have higher numbers of Covid-19 cases, are being prioritised by the testing programme.

West Berkshire has a relatively low number of cases, having recorded 553 during the pandemic, and the lowest infection rate in Berkshire (349 cases per 100,000 people).

According to the Office for National Statistics, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of 132 people in West Berkshire and almost half (64) of those deaths were recorded in care homes.

Cllr Doherty said: “We have a very detailed Local Outbreak Plan and I’m very comfortable and happy with that plan.

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“As we go into winter and face a potential second wave, it will be the local authority that looks at the local response.

“Of course we are going to get cases of Covid, that’s going to happen.

“But the critical point for me is having the ability to manage it, having that plan in place and being prepared for it.

“I certainly feel a lot better today in September, six months on from when we first had this in March.

“I think we’ve come a long way and learnt an awful lot. That plan is really going to help us get through the winter months.”