Lewisham, south London, witnessed scenes of “absolute pandemonium” and “chaos”, as drivers queued for hours to get a coronavirus test only to be turned away, after the system struggled to cope with soaring demand.
Lots of “very angry” people were shouting at each other to move, and also at the staff, according to an eyewitness.
Henry Bull said they were all asked to leave without getting tested. But staff said booking a test online was not enough – they needed a QR code which almost nobody had.
Meanwhile, around 50 people were parked up at the Doxford Park testing site in Sunderland – one of the areas put in a North East lockdown – but there was no tent or other infrastructure, no staff to swab them and no officials to explain what had happened.
There have been reports this month of people being told to travel hundreds of miles to get a test as demand outstrips supply and coronavirus infections continue to rise.
Mr Bull, 29, had cycled to Lewisham from his nearby home in Peckham after booking an appointment online as he had a cough.
He described the scene as “absolute pandemonium, chaos”, adding: “The entire junction is gridlocked with cars queuing to get into it, loads of car drivers getting out and shouting at each other to move out of the way.
“Once you actually get to the site, nobody has received the QR code that you have to have to get tested.”
He said one woman who had been queuing for four hours burst into tears after being told she would not be seen.
“A pretty horrible, stressful situation all round to be honest, lots of very upset people, presumably several of whom have COVID as well so exposing a lot of us to infection,” he continued.
The reason for the bedlam was because hundreds of people were queuing for a test centre, that to all intents and purposes, didn’t exist.