South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has slammed the Scottish Government after the First Minister claimed it was a just “technical hitch” that some worried constituents were directed to travel for hours for Covid-19 testing.

The local MSP has been in contact with residents in Dumfries who were told to travel to Penrith for testing and even worse, people in Ayr being instructed that their nearest testing centre was in Belfast.

Schools in the south of Scotland have been back for almost two weeks and demand for testing has increased with pupils and teachers with symptoms seeking tests.

Colin Smyth said: “For the First Minister to say that people being instructed to travel for hours for testing was a ‘technical hitch’ is completely shocking. Everyone wants to do the right thing and we have been told repeatedly that if anyone has virus symptoms, they must book a test as soon as possible.

“If someone is being told to travel for hours to get a test, there’s a very high chance that they’re not going to bother getting tested at all. Testing must be local, as convenient as possible, and it must be easy to access if we are to keep on top of this terrible illness.

“How worrying must it be for families whose children aren’t being tested even if they show symptoms and how much must it be costing local councils to have teachers sitting at home, self-isolating because they aren’t being tested.

“We have already had pupils and teachers out of school for months and the last thing we need is for that to continue. We are coming into autumn then winter and the number of people with symptoms similar to Covid-19 will rise and we need to ensure tests are carried out to at the very least rule out coronavirus so people can go back to school. Staff for example should be being offered regular testing at the schools themselves rather than having to scramble around trying to find a testing site.

“The Scottish Government has failed on testing since the very start of this pandemic and this is the latest in a series of testing mistakes. They have had months to boost capacity and prepare for the schools returning but this proves that they are still not getting it right. It wasn’t difficult for the Government to realise that demand for testing would increase when schools went back.

“Something has gone badly wrong and the government must work to fix it as a matter of priority.”

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