There has been “chaos” at a Government-run coronavirus test centre in Southend as people line up in huge queues hoping to get a test... despite many not having an appointment.

The test centre, in Short Street, has become overwhelmed with people hoping to get a test as many are unaware they need to book ahead of time.

Furthermore, the booking system which is operated by the Department of Health and Social Care has been plagued with problems, leaving those who do know the centre is booking-only unable to make an appointment.


Southend resident Rachelle Stone, 42, said she passed the test centre on Tuesday and it was “chaos”.

She said: “Almost everybody there had primary school-aged children who had symptoms but they have been told they can’t go back to school until they have had a test.

“I spoke to some people there and they told me they turned up because either they couldn’t book online or they heard on the grapevine they would get a test if they just showed up.

“The queues went all the way around the site. I was gobsmacked.”

Many people in queue were also seen not properly following coronavirus safety measures, with both adults and children not wearing masks despite being there because they have symptoms of the virus.

She added: “Virtually everybody had kids and the kids were the ones coughing but they weren’t wearing masks. It was chaos.”

Southend Council’s director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said he is very aware of the problems at the site and is urging people not to go unless they have an appointment.

His biggest concern is that people standing in the queues will potentially spread the virus.

He said if anyone does end up in a queue for a test centre they should be at least “two metres away from each other”.

He added: “This is meant to be a booking service but I have been made aware of a number of social media posts where people are saying to just turn up. This was never meant to be a walk-in service.”

The council is now discussing with the Government what can be done at the site and how it can be made clearer that the facility is only for people who have booked.

“The authority may also stop using Government terminology, which calls the centre ‘walk-through’ as this is causing even more confusion.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “We understand the problems that people are having with the national booking site and we have raised these concerns at a national level.

“I am also concerned to see the images of queues outside the testing centre.

“It is clear from these images that local people are turning up to be tested without an appointment, and this is another issue that we have raised with the Department for Health and Social Care who run the local walk-through testing site.

“I urge local people to only attend the Short Street site if they have a booked appointment, and to please only book a test if you have Coronavirus symptoms.

“If you book or turn up for a test without symptoms, you are taking testing capacity from those people who really need it.”