Rapid Covid test sites planned for Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk health leaders are hoping two new rapid-result testing centres in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft for those without Covid-19 symptoms can open in the next 10 days.
Public Health Suffolk is waiting on approval by the Department for Health and Social Care, but is hoping those new centres, which will be akin to the site established at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, will be ready within a week or 10 days.
They aim to provide regular testing for those who do not have symptoms, who cannot work from home and may not have access to regular testing through their workplace, such as supermarket staff, teachers and distribution workers.
Planned locations for those two have not yet been disclosed.
Public Health Suffolk director, Stuart Keeble, told Friday's local outbreak engagement board: "We are looking to rapidly set up sites in our big towns - Ipswich is the first and then looking at Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, and we are looking to do that relatively soon in the next seven-to-10 days ideally.
"We are then working with partners across the system to identify nine-to-ten market town sites where there may be large employment centres to try and provide easy access to testing, and then further community sites in some of our own community settings in smaller areas.
"It's another key tool while we wait for the vaccine to be rapidly rolled out that we can try to reduce the spread, especially in our working age population, and protect as many people as possible."
Lateral flow tests are not as accurate as PCR tests which send results to labs, but provide results within around 30 minutes and can help spot Covid cases earlier among those who do not have symptoms.
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Since the Ipswich site launched on January 14, more than 3,000 people have been tested with an average of 220 carried out per day.
But health bosses said capacity was significantly higher, and encouraged those who cannot work from home to use the site.
That facility has found at least 19 positive cases which Mr Keeble said they wouldn't have known about otherwise, and prevented them spreading the virus.
"One in three people do not have symptoms, and that fact is really important with the infectiousness of this new variant," he said.
"If we are getting tested it is possible to pick up these cases and break the chains of transmission.
"That's why as part of this wider community rollout we are talking about trying to get people tested a couple of times a week, so we can pick up the virus at the earliest phase.
"We are really looking to make the lateral flow testing as accessible as possible.
"This isn't about trying to test everybody, this is about trying to test those people who cannot work from home."