DEMAND at Lancashire’s walk-in Covid testing sites is exceeding capacity “on a daily basis” and there will be “a crunch point” in efforts to keep up in the coming weeks, because of issues in the national system.

That was the message from one of Lancashire County Council’s top public health officials.

Across the five walk-in test centres in Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn and Preston, 1,558 residents came forward to be tested on Monday. That is treble the average combined weekly usage of the sites when they were first set up over a month ago because of high case numbers in those areas.

Abdul Razaq, consultant in public health at County Hall, told the authority’s health scrutiny committee the “substantial surge” was partly a result of the return of pupils to school and also “inappropriate usage” for holiday or employment reasons.

Currently, Covid testing in Lancashire is available via permanent centres in Blackburn and Preston plus community facilities in high case areas and mobile sites which pop up at various locations.

Pendle has already received its first permanent local testing site, which is open 12 hours a day and requires an appointment for people with symptoms. However, committee member and Pendle Council’s deputy leader said it was already attracting people “from many miles away”.

“We’re almost back to the point where testing was abandoned earlier in the year and Covid-19 ran rampant – why has the summer been squandered?” County Cllr David Whipp asked.

Fellow committee member and Burnley councillor Lian Pate said that there was “confusion” in the community about who was eligible to use the testing facilities and when they should do so.

Mr Razaq revealed a plan to set up one fixed-point local testing site in all 14 Lancashire council areas during the autumn – with the aim of two such units being operational in each district by the end of the year.

He said: “They are a booth-type operation – you walk in, the test kit is available, you self-swab and you get the result within 24 hours,” adding that Lancashire had asked the government to “fast-track” the facilities for the county.

The committee also heard that staff at the community test facilities in Lancashire have been subject to hostility from people who failed to appreciate that their results might take several days to come back.

“It is highly intensive work in a high-pressure environment. 

"The staff have to face residents who are anxious – and some are directly abusive,” Mr Razaq said.