Despite specifying that she was unable to drive, the 23-year-old student, who asked to be identified only by her first name, was told she would have to travel some 350 miles north if she wanted to find out if she had the virus. Home tests were unavailable.
“So does that mean I should get on public transport with Covid symptoms to go to North Shields for a Covid test?” Faye asked, speaking to The Independent. “The UK government keep saying that [testing] has been a priority of theirs but I don’t believe it truly has been."
The student is one of many who has struggled to access testing, with social media in recent weeks being flooded with people complaining of being asked to travel dozens – and sometimes even hundreds – of miles for a test.
Another Twitter user, also based in Brighton, shared screenshots showing they had also been told to visit the walk-in testing centre North Shields, with the government website wrongly showing it to be just 7.5 miles away from their postcode.
When contacted by The Independent, Lesley Burdett, 50, said she had tried putting in multiple Brighton postcodes and was consistently told to travel to North Shields for a test.
The health secretary recently pledged that no one should have to travel more than 75 miles for a test, after reports of people being told to travel from London to Wales, and from Cumbria to Scotland.
It comes as new figures showed that positive cases have increased by 180 per cent since the end of August, according to NHS Test and Trace.
The new statistics show 19,278 new people tested positive for the virus between 10 and 16 September in England. Between 20 and 26 August, 6,732 people tested positive.
In a sign that the system is struggling, turnaround times for in-person tests have risen, with only 28.2 per cent of people receiving their result within 24 hours, compared to 33.3 per cent the week before. This is despite the number of tests completed being similar (demand increased by just 1 per cent over the last week).
In June, Boris Johnson pledged to get "all [in-person] tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June".
Anthony, 29, told The Independent that he travelled 30 miles from St Helens to Manchester for a test on Monday after being told local sites and home testing were unavailable. Nearly 72 hours later, he hasn’t received a result.
The digital production manager said he’s had to take time off work after developing symptoms shortly after seeing a friend who later tested positive.
But before that, Anthony had seen several people on his birthday, who are now unsure if they also need to self-isolate.
“I’m just sat about unable to leave the house," Anthony wrote on Twitter. "The helpline they set up is unable to chase up results due to demand. The entire thing is a shambles.”
He told The Independent that when you “try to chase up a test result you get an automated message ‘due to demand we are unable to look for results’ and the phone line is disconnected”.
Prof James Naismith FRS FMedSci, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and Professor of Structural Biology, University of Oxford, told The Independent: “The success of track, trace and isolate ultimately depends on infectious people with Covid-19 isolating from others. The longer the delay in testing, tracing or isolation, the more time the infection has to spread.
"It is disappointing to see any decrease in turnaround time,” Prof Naismith added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at an unprecedented scale – over 200,000 a day on average last week – with the vast majority of people getting tested within six miles of their home.
“There has been a spike in demand in recent weeks and the message is clear – only people with symptoms should be requesting a test.
“We’re doing everything possible to overcome this challenge – including by bringing in new labs that can process tens of thousands of tests a day, opening new test sites, and trialling new rapid tests that will give results on the spot.
“As we expand capacity further, we will continue to work around the clock to make sure that everyone who needs a test can get one.”