Covid test system glitch and laboratory overload results in scores of people being unable to ‘book’ at Manston

Covid test site at Manston Photo Frank Leppard

A glitch in the algorithm of the government Covid test booking site means people are being directed to centres across the country instead of the one nearest to them.

Manston testing site, which has capacity for 1200 people per day, is not being offered to scores of Thanet and East Kent residents who are instead being told to travel as far away as Inverness or being told there are no available test sites.

A source told The Isle of Thanet News that the issue is the algorithm glitch combined with short staffed  labs and the impact of hundreds of people turning up and being tested but then not registering, causing laboratory processing to reach ‘pinch point.’

Sarah-Jane Marsh, Director of Testing, NHS Test and Trace, has tweeted to apologise, adding: “All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”

Tests from Manston and other parts of the country are delivered to a lab in Milton Keynes but staff are swamped and there is a recruitment drive taking place to increase the number of technicians although a relatively low hourly rate is not attracting applicants.

At the Manston test site hundreds of people have been turned away because they are not registered for a test.

The Isle of Thanet News has been advised that Thanet people should book a test, accept whichever centre is offered and then, once they have been sent their QR code, go to Manston. However, this will only work if a test centre is offered. Presently some people are trying to register and being told there are no test sites and no home kits available.

We were told: “As long as people have the QR code to match their test they can go to Manston. It is not how it is supposed to work but the labs are swamped. It is a worry for people. The glitch is happening in lots of places, not just Thanet.”

Mrs Marsh said: “We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open-up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests.

“The Testing Team work on this 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. We recognise the country is depending on us.”


Across the UK, as of yesterday (September 11) there have been 361,677 confirmed positive Covid tests.

From September 2-7 there was a spike in positive cases, with England recording nearly 3,000 new cases on several days, the highest rate since May 19. There has not been a corresponding rise in hospitalisations or covid-attributed deaths.

In Thanet there have been 943 positive tests recorded and 164 covid attributed deaths registered up to September 5.

To find the test booking site click here


  1. On Friday 11th September I was advised by my GP to book a test. This was as a result of me having the same symptoms as when I was previously hospitalised with Covid.
    The problem with doing this in a 14 hour period was:
    There were NO drive in sites being offered anywhere in the UK.
    There were NO walk in sites being offered anywhere in the UK.
    There were NO Home Tests available
    On informing the GP advised me to just turn up at Manston. This didn’t work either, as they refused, despite my explanation, to carry out a test!
    This was completely ridiculous, as there were approx 20 staff at the site and only 1 vehicle in which the occupants were being tested!
    I am a carer for my disabled son and wife and am putting them at risk!

    • The R number doesn’t depend on the availability of tests. The R number can be kept below 1 if we keep social distancing.

    • The actual test centre at Manston is exemplary. I had a test last month which was negative. No-one else was there. I got an appointment immediately. Apparently people assumed COVID was over and seemed not to be availing themselves of thios fantastic facilities on their doorstep. I was very impressed with the setup. Sadly the result which was due the next day took 5 days and two complaints from me to chase-up the results. The second operator I spoke to was fantastic and got my results released in 5 minutes. The Government’s disregard for ensuring all of these systems are working properly is a disgrace, not only to the population but the staff who are employed to carry out the testing process. So the actual test centre is in fine fettle but Matt Hancock and his team have lost their world-beating join the dots strategic planning book. What an appalling excuse for a Government! The opposition should pull its finger out too!

        • Indeed, at Manston, you do the test yourself in your own car bubble as the whole test centre is set up following biohazard protocols. It’s a pity our hospitals haven’t been funded to work in the same way as there would be greater opportunity to continue the day job of the NHS without fear of patients contracting COVID. The QEQM is far more stringent when there’s an outbreak of norovirus for instance. Too many people are dying unnecessarily now from other treatable conditions including cancer. Our NHS and its staff are being deliberately rundown. The Tories need sacking. All they have done is lie to the public.

  2. I went online and booked an appointment for me and my wife at Manston. We went last Tuesday at 12:30 at 6 : 30 on Wednesday morning we had negative results. At 3 pm in the afternoon we were texted to return for another test which we did. at 9:15 Thursday morning we were again told it was negative. We were very impressed with the service. We assume the first test was being audited, not sure.

  3. Tracking and tracing has been woefully inadequate since day 1. The wild boasts by Johnston and Handcock have not been reflected in reality.
    However, there is an element of truth in Handcock’s claim that vital test slots have been taken up by people who, for their own selfish reasons, want to get a test.

    • What are you talking about Andrew? What on earth is a selfish reason for having a test? The government has had 9 months to work this out. They do not appear to give a jot!

      • I think Andrew is referring to people booking tests without symptoms. Unfortunately I fear the NHS call lines are partly to blame for this as they were advising people they didn’t have classic Covid symptoms to get tested anyway. Wasn’t a problem at one point but sadly we are at a point again when tests really do need to be reserved for those with symptoms

        • Booking tests without symptoms? 80% of infections can be asymptomatic which is why transmission is rife amongst non-social distancers, non-maskers and those who spend hours indoors with the super-spreaders. I know exactly what Andrew is saying and it is spurious.

  4. Very mixed messages about Manston. Friends of ours were tested there this week without appointments, as they had symptoms and are elderly. They drove to Manston from where they live, a few miles away and were both accepted to be tested. They got their results (negative) the next day.

  5. I live next to this site. It is not used very much yet the spotlights are left on all through the night…. There is a way to turn up without registering and doing it online after your test with the barcode you are given on your test package. I did this in Dover 2 months ago. Why aren’t they doing this?

Comments are closed.