SICK people in Oxfordshire have been told to travel hundreds of miles for a coronavirus test as centres struggle to cope with the demand.

Parents of youngsters who have just returned to school for the first time in months are having to keep them at home in self-isolation until they get a negative test result.

But despite spending days booking a slot to get a swab, the challenge is proving impossible for many.

Yesterday, one woman tried to book a test in Oxford but was told to drive to Essex.

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When she tried again in the afternoon the only options available were Tewkesbury (35 miles away), Droitwich (36 miles away) and Paulton (72 miles away).

Another woman, Elaine Phillips, has been trying to book a test for two days and said: “I was first offered Birmingham and then Wales. I live in Oxfordshire. I eventually got one for Swindon.”

Andrea Ellis also said she had been trying for a couple of days to get a swab closer to home, saying: “I’ve been trying for two days and no luck.

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“It means the kids missing more school if I can’t get a test today as you have to test within five days of symptoms.”

Leigh Butler, who lives in Abingdon, said his brother had to drive to Wales to get a test.

Mell Brookings said she was offered a test in Leicester.

She said: “I woke up with a cough and wanted to check the next appointment in case, but thankfully my cough was because of medication so didn’t go ahead with the test.

“My family and I had a test about five weeks ago, though, and got one on the day for three of us at Kidlington, so the change in availability is now shocking.

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“Last time it was so easy to book, I felt very at ease knowing it was such a simple process.

“My father had symptoms so we got tested as I had been helping him and my mum with care etc during lockdown, and we were able to book online and we got tested three hours later.

“Now it makes me more nervous knowing that we will potentially have to drive round the UK if it happened again.”

In a letter to Victoria Prentis, Wesley Roberts said booking a test for his seven-year-old son had been a ‘shambles’.

He said: “We live in Bicester and we have been trying to book a Covid test for our seven-year-old son since Wednesday. We are constantly being told no test available either drive through or walk in. The home testing kits are non-existent and this is becoming a real nightmare.

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“We are not the only ones and if I’m correct no tests are being carried out in the Oxfordshire area at the moment. This is completely unacceptable – my wife and I are worried our employers will reach the end of their tether with us and our poor kids just want to go to school. What is going on?

“People we speak to are saying similar thing and are in the same boat as us. What a shambles.”

One woman was even told to go to the Isle of Wight.

On the Facebook page Spotted: Didcot Charlotte Dale said: “We finally managed to get one in the f****** Isle of Wight!!!! Not happening. Site crashed, phones ringing.”

Marie Ingram, who got a test at Newbury Racecourse added: “Holy moly it’s all getting a bit stupid.”

A mum from Banbury said she spent hours yesterday trying to book a test for her five-year-old son who was unwell with a high temperature.

Every time she logged on she said there were no available test sites. When she called the new coronavirus testing number 119 she said she got a voice message telling her to order a test online.

She eventually got an appointment late last night for today but it was more than 80 miles away.

Now the Department of Health and Social Care have said the system is being updated so the limit does not go beyond 75 miles.

In a statement, it said the mounting pressure was because of a huge demand from people who did not have any symptoms, who were not supposed to be asking for tests.

It said: “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.

“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.”

Booking slots are made available the evening before the morning appointments and on the morning for afternoon appointments.