A coronavirus testing centre has been shut to make way for a post-Brexit lorry park – despite widespread problems with testing capacity.
No10 confirmed that Ebsfleet testing centre in Kent had been closed down, which had capacity for 2,000 tests per day.
A leaked Kent County Council letter, obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, said the centre had been shut as the land was needed for post-Brexit customs checks.
Dartford Labour councillor Sacha Gosine said the local infrastructure “cannot cope with lorries” and it would be a “logistical nightmare”.
The Liberal Democrats said “public health is now coming to second to Brexit” due Boris Johnson’s “reckless” negotiating stance.
The Ebsfleet site had been earmarked for customs checks on goods travelling to the EU at the end of the Brexit transition period in December.
But the work was mothballed when the pandemic struck and the site turned into a coronavirus testing centre.
A No10 spokesman confirmed the reports, saying: ”The testing site at Ebbsfleet has closed and a new regional testing site is operating very near by in Rochester, ensuring operations can continue in the area as needed.”
On reports it would turn into a lorry park, the spokesman said: “Final decisions on inland sites won’t be made until we’ve established the extend of the new infrastructure that will be delivered at ports.”
Christine Jadine, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesperson, said: “People in Kent will be horrified to learn that the COVID testing facilities we so desperately need have closed, only to make way for a parking lot.
“Public health is now coming second to Brexit, thanks to Boris Johnson’s reckless approach to negotiations. This will cause grave concern across the country.”
Labour’s Rachel Reeves said it was a “disgrace” to close the site when the system was under such strain.
“It puts communities at risk and just typifies this Tory government’s shambolic and incompetent approach to planning, both on Covid-19 and our transition out of the EU,” she told HuffPost.
“It really isn’t too much to ask that ministers co-ordinate their last-minute lorry parks better, and not close much needed testing centres that are so vital for tackling this pandemic.”
The move comes amid fresh testing chaos, as people across the country struggled to access Covid-19 tests.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been a “sharp rise” in people coming forward for tests, including those who were not eligible.
He told MPs: “Throughout this pandemic, we have prioritised testing according to need. Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing, whether priorities or not.
“But 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.”
A Government spokesperson said: “Regional testing sites were set up at great speed and selected for their immediate availability, security and access.
“The regional testing site at Ebbsfleet has ceased operations and a new regional testing site is operating at Curtis Way, Rochester. The relocation will allow the network to continue operating as long as needed.”
The spokesperson said final decisions on lorry park sites would not be made until the Government has established the extent of new infrastructure delivered at ports.