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Suffolk testing capacity increased as plans for walk-through centres unveiled

PUBLISHED: 11:03 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:03 21 October 2020

Capacity at Suffolk's test centres has been increased, according to Suffolk County Council.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Capacity at Suffolk's test centres has been increased, according to Suffolk County Council. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Covid-19 test centres in Suffolk have been given a boost after public health chiefs confirmed extra capacity had been made to test people locally.

Stuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk said capacity for Covid-19 testing should continue to grow in the county. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILStuart Keeble, director of public health for Suffolk said capacity for Covid-19 testing should continue to grow in the county. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The extra testing aims to eradicate national problems seen several weeks ago where people who were attempting to book a test were told they needed to travel hundreds of miles elsewhere in the country – some as far as Scotland or Wales – because of the shortage of tests.

A report published ahead of Friday’s local outbreak engagement board meeting in Suffolk said that because of the increase in positive coronavirus cases, the government has “uplifted capacity in these sites so we have enough capacity for the local population to be tested when and as the needs arise”.

MORE: People sent hundreds of miles for Covid tests amid national shortage

Furthermore, the public health team confirmed it was also in the early stages of setting up walk-through testing facilities to test people who cannot drive to the main regional testing centre at Copdock Park & Ride.

Suffolk’s director of public health, Stuart Keeble said: “Our team is constantly working to give Suffolk residents increased access to testing, so that we can all help to protect each other.

“We are continually working with government, monitoring our testing sites and developing creative solutions here in Suffolk. For example, we are looking at appropriate sites to offer walk-through testing centres and have rolled out the Suffolk Priority Testing Service.

“The priority service means that testing is available for a wide range of local key workers if they are unable to secure a test through the NHS system. This is available to staff in schools, emergency services, health care, social care, care providers and some local businesses. Appointments are booked through employers and the turnaround for test results is quick and reliable, meaning key workers can back to work as soon as possible.

“We have faced challenges, such as the recent national restrictions with testing capacity, but we are seeing capacity increase to previous levels. We expect to see this capacity continue to grow in Suffolk, as the government expands testing to its target of 500,000 people per day by the end of October.”

Mobile testing units have already been touring the county for a number of weeks to help people further afield, while home testing kits are also an option.

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Locations for walk-through centres are currently being assessed but are likely to be in areas which pedestrians can access easily such as town centres.

MORE: Suffolk hospitals stress-test demand for second Covid wave this winter

Elsewhere, the critical key worker testing service has been replaced with the Suffolk Priority Testing Service – a tie-up between the council, East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust laboratory, the health department and Commisceo which will process an additional 300 swabs per day. That has replaced the key-worker testing facility in Martlesham.

The council added that a mobile swabbing service has now been established which can be deployed wherever there is an outbreak. That service has seen East Coast Community Healthcare stationed at Bernard Matthews to test hundreds of staff members there, while Commisceo has been carrying out swabs in children’s homes and temporary housing accommodation among other locations.

The report will be discussed on Friday, where public health leaders will give an update on the situation in Suffolk.

It comes as the government opened a new walk-through testing facility at Sawyers Car Park at the Anglia Ruskin University campus in Chelmsford, to help make testing more accessible in Essex.

A health department spokeswoman said: “NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at the unprecedented scale of around 280,000 tests per day nationally and we are aiming to increase capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

“We target testing capacity at the areas that need it most and work with locally based teams on the location of test sites.

“Our message is simple: If you have symptoms, you must get a test, but if you don’t have symptoms, you shouldn’t be coming forward for a test.”

People who display symptoms of Covid-19 – a high temperature, persistent cough or loss or change in their sense of smell or taste – should book a test, and self-isolate until their results come through.

Find out more about Covid-19 testing in Suffolk at the county council website here.


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