Sick students have been forced to walk hours for a coronavirus test as centres struggle to cope with demand.

Joe Byrne, a 19-year-old Economics student at the University of Sheffield, set off at 8am from his flat in Endcliffe Student Village for a coronavirus test at 11.30am in Rotherham, seven miles away. 

After walking for three hours, Byrne missed his time slot having arrived at the wrong test centre nearby.

As his phone had run out of battery, Byrne was also unable to show his booking  and was therefore unable to take a test.

He said: “The facts were that I’d walked 14 miles there and back to not be tested.”

The student walked a total of six hours for the test. Without access to his phone, he had to return home using road signs.

Byrne told Forge Press that when he went to book his test, the Rotherham site was the only one available for the next day.

Like most students, Byrne did not have a car and guidelines advised against using public transport.

He said: “If I did have Covid, I’d be spreading that to other people. I had no choice but to walk.”

Despite a number of test centres located close to campus, many students are struggling to book a test. 

Nathan Mullick, a first year Medicine student at the University of Sheffield, was given a slot to be tested in Darnall,a five mile journey and 90-minute walk from his home.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it without a bike. It’s quite far,” he said.

Patrick Halpin, a third year Sociology student, tells a similar story. While he was able to find a next-day slot, he told Forge Press: “Walking near enough two hours each way to get tested was not an ideal situation. 

“Fearing the illness was stressful enough by itself. Coupled with a hike under time pressure made for a pretty miserable morning”.

Despite a slight fall in new cases over the past week, Sheffield’s Coronavirus figures continue to be well above the national mean. In the week up to 9 October there were an average of 413 per 100,000 of the population and just yesterday the city was placed on the Government’s ‘high alert’ list.  

At the University alone there have been over 800 recorded cases since the beginning of undergraduate term on 28 September. 

While the Milton Street and are testing facilities located close to the University it is understood slots for the next- day tests fill up early. 

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “New testing slots were available throughout the day” and the city was “working to increase testing capacity.”

The University recommends students without a form of transport keep calling or checking the website if suitable test appointments aren’t available initially.

The spokesperson added: “We are in regular contact with Sheffield City Council, Public Health England and other partners to review the testing capacity in the city and make sure that we are sharing information about the local situation and responding to the latest guidance.”

Image: Imogen Bowlt

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