NO new coronavirus cases were reported in Basingstoke and Deane on Sunday, September 13.

However, local people have struggled to book coronavirus tests over the last several days, which begs the question of whether the two are connected.

A search on the UK government testing portal carried out at 10:15am this morning shows that the nearest test centre to Basingstoke Festival Place (RG21 7BA), is Fawley Mobile Unit, which allegedly has 42 available slots.

But when you attempt to book a slot for either a drive-through or walk-through test on any day this week, the message reads "There are currently no slots available on this day. Try again this evening, when more test slots will be made available."

One resident of Chineham, who asked not to be named, spent three days trying to book a test for her son, 8, who developed a cough and temperature on Thursday of last week.

On Saturday she was offered an appointment in Swindon but, by the time she had registered her car details, the appointment was gone.

On Sunday, the same thing happened with an appointment in Bognor Regis, 56 miles away.

“I thought, given the government guidelines, the best thing to do was to try to try to get him a test,” she said.

“I woke up at 7am and was refreshing the site on several devices but there was absolutely nothing available.”

She finally got an appointment in Newbury and it was a very quick process.

“The site suggested you take something for children to do. My boy was upset with me because he took his ipad but didn’t use it because it was so quick! There was no waiting at the centre and the staff there were amazing, so the problem is the booking system.”

The mother-of-two is currently isolating at home with her family, and will do so for 14 days unless they receive a negative test result.

She is self-employed and her husband works from home, but she says it is not so easy for others.

When she was having difficulty, she posted on Facebook, and says that lots of other parents responded.

One had waited nine days for an appointment in Swindon. Another had been offered one in Newcastle. Several had reported a bug in the website, which meant when they arrived for their appointments in Newbury, the centre had no record of the booking.

“They advise you don’t take public transport, but not everyone has access to a private vehicle. On the website one of the suggestions is to ride a bike, but what if someone is really ill?” she said.

She suggests that parents of school-age children, in particular, need further guidance.

“ My daughter is very upset about it because she loves school,” she said.

“If this pandemic is going to get worse in the winter, there should maybe be different guidance for schools. The school should say that a child with flu symptoms should have 5 days off, and if the siblings have no symptoms maybe they have 5 days off too or come in with a mask.

“There needs to be better communication so people know what to do. We need to call for some action, we need more support.”

It comes after The Gazette reported on Friday that no tests were available at all for Basingstoke residents, with searches for appointments on the government portal consistently met with a ‘no test centres found’ message, and no at-home testing kits available to order either.

Cllr Jack Cousens, who represents Brookvale and Kings Furlong, told this newspaper of his anger after struggling to book a test for his poorly son.

“How on earth can you say we have an excellent system when it can’t be used? How can you ask people to get a test when you can’t book one?" he said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) could not give a number for tests carried out among Basingstoke residents over the weekend, but a spokesperson said that while capacity for testing is “higher than ever”, people booking tests without symptoms or another recommended reason are responsible for the “significant demand.”

“NHS Test and Trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are seeing a significant demand for tests including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible,” they said.

“New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.

“Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster. If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself if you wash your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.”

The DHSC says tests are made available in the evening, for the next morning, and in the morning for afternoon appointments.

It also says improvements are being made to the system of allocating regional testing slots to ensure the distance limit does not go beyond 75 miles.