Residents with symptoms of coronavirus are struggling to book tests.

A shortage of tests and a sharp rise in cases in Epping Forest and Harlow, like in much of the country, has left people unable to find out if they have caught the deadly virus.

When using the Government website for booking a test in the district, no testing sites are shown to be available.

After entering your details to book, a webpage reads: “More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.”

Official Government guidelines currently state if you have Covid-19 symptoms, you need to get a test done within the first five days of displaying symptoms.

However, yesterday it was revealed tests will be rationed as the Government struggles to get to grips with soaring demand.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there would be “prioritisation” of tests for people with acute clinical need and those in social care settings as he acknowledged “operational challenges” in the system.

He faced a barrage of complaints in the Commons about people being forced to travel long distances or even enter false addresses in the hope of securing a test.

NHS leaders have called for health workers and patients to be given priority after Government sources admitted that demand for tests is currently far outstripping supply.

Mr Hancock said an updated prioritisation list would set out who will be at the front of the queue.

“We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible,” Mr Hancock said.

“As demand has risen, so we are having to prioritise once again and I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They are not always comfortable, but they are important.”

Acute clinical care is the top priority, with social care next on the list and currently receiving more than 100,000 tests a day.

Mr Hancock said prioritisation was “a choice that we must make”.

Government sources acknowledged there was no accurate data on how many people who are not eligible for a test have tried to book one.

Mr Hancock admitted that it might be “a matter of weeks” before the testing problems are resolved.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed Mr Hancock was “losing control of this virus”.

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