A BARROW man has spoken of his 'frustrating' experiences trying to get a Coronavirus (Covid-19) test after his friend tested positive for the virus.

Bryan Rhodes, 51, was told he had to travel across the Scottish border to Castle Douglas or to Blackburn - one of the UK's current Covid 'hotspots' subject to government restrictions - in order to get a test in recent days.

Mr Rhodes said he first tried to book a test at the weekend, after learning a friend he had been playing golf with on Sunday, August 30 had tested positive for Covid-19.

Three days ago, having experienced a mild cough for a number of days, Mr Rhodes tried to book a test via the national portal, where he entered details for Track and Trace.

He was subsequently told that, in order to access the closest available testing site, he would have to drive approximately 75 miles to a centre in Blackburn, or to one more than 100 miles away in Dumfries.

Last Friday, health chiefs confirmed that Cumbria had gained national testing prioritisation, as the public health challenges resulting from the county's 'unique' (geographical and demographic) characteristics were taken into consideration by Number 10.

But yesterday the director of NHS Track and Trace, Sarah-Jane Marsh, was forced to issue an apology to 'anyone who cannot get a test' as reports of testing shortages abounded across the UK.

It was also found last month that contact tracers hired as part of the national programme were missing a quarter of potentially-exposed residents across Cumbria.

Mr Rhodes wrote to Barrow MP Simon Fell earlier this week, telling him: 'I find the whole test regime inconsistent and frustrating'.

Mr Fell has defended the controversial national contact tracing scheme and, as of yesterday afternoon, had not responded to Mr Rhodes.

"I've not been contacted by anyone yet - by either the Government or the NHS - to ask me about my symptoms," Mr Rhodes said.

"At the moment, I'm self-isolating and waiting on the results of the Blackburn test. But I really hope something is done to improve the testing availability in the area for the sake of the wider community and other people in the town who could become infected.

"Thankfully, I'm not displaying strong symptoms - I've just had a slight cough so far. But that mightn't be the case for other people who become symptomatic."

Commenting on testing shortages in Barrow, Cumbria's public health director, Colin Cox, said this week: "People ought to be able to book a local test online. I hope more testing slots will be made available in the coming days.

"There might not be availability currently because they are being booked up - there's a degree of backlog as well as greater demand for testing as we enter the autumn and winter months.

"The testing slots are released in a number of batches throughout the day - if people try just once, they are less likely to be able to book a slot. It is a frustrating system. But if people keep trying, they are more likely to find a slot.

"More than 300 people tested over the weekend at the mobile testing station in the BAE car park."

Mr Fell told The Mail yesterday evening: "Mr Rhodes is not the only person who's been in touch this week concerning local testing.

"Colin Cox and I have been making the case for mobile testing to be brought back to Barrow - and I understand it will be available again this Wednesday and Thursday.

"What I'm trying to get is standing capacity - we're some of the way towards doing that. We're also looking to expand BAE's testing programme to make it available for residents - not just BAE employees.

"I'd like to see as much of the testing and track and trace work being done locally as possible."