Covid surge testing in Norfolk: How to get a test

Diss sign Mere street Picture by: Sonya Duncan

Covid-19 surge testing in Diss will start on Friday. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Surge testing of thousands of people in part of Norfolk will begin on Friday, to try to halt the spread of a South African variant of coronavirus.

Public health bosses want everybody aged 16 or over in Diss and Roydon to urgently get tested - even if they have no symptoms - to establish how widespread the variant is and to stem its spread.

Letters have been sent to thousands of homes encouraging people to get tested, with three walk-in mobile testing units to be set up in Diss and Roydon from Friday (February 19).

Roydon village sign. Picture: Denise Bradley

People in Roydon are being urged to get tested for Covid-19. - Credit: EDP, Archant

Home testing kits are also being made available for people to pick up, as surge testing is used in the county for the first time.

The surge testing - which seeks to get people tested even if they have no coronavirus symptoms - comes after a "very small number" of South Africa variant cases of Covid-19 were found in the Diss area.

People who test positive will be told to self-isolate, with their contacts traced and told to do likewise.

The council had previously said up to 10 cases had been identified in the county, but they were linked to travel to South Africa.

And public health bosses need to establish the variant has spread into the community.

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The South Africa variant is believed to spread more easily than the original virus, although there is no evidence it causes more serious illness.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

In a letter to people in Diss and Roydon, Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's public health director, said the surge testing would help establish if the South Africa variant has spread more widely in the community.

But she said: "Overall, the number of cases in South Norfolk is falling and there is no reason for local people to be
worried by this increased testing.

"There is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness than others."

She said "the most important thing" was to keep following guidance such as limiting contacts, washing hands often for at least 20 seconds, keeping a distance and sticking to lockdown rules.

She said: "The more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have at containing it.

"Please help us to keep you, your loved ones and your community safe by getting tested so we can find the South Africa variant.

"Also, we know that viruses change over time and this extra testing will be used by scientists to find out more information about the genetic code of the virus in Norfolk to help us assess what action may need to be taken."

Three mobile test units will be set up at Diss Youth and Community Centre, Diss Leisure Centre and Roydon Village Hall, from Friday (February 19).

Diss Youth and Community Centre, in Shelfhanger Road, will run testing from 9am to 3pm from Friday until Thursday, February 25.

Diss Leisure Centre, in Victoria Road will do testing from 9am until 3pm from Friday until Thursday, March 4.

And Roydon Village Hall, in the High Road, will offer tests between 12pm and 6pm from Friday until Thursday, March 4.

People need to book tests at from 8pm on Thursday, February 18.

People who do not have COVID symptoms should click ‘yes’ when asked ‘is the person who needs a test part of a trial or government project?’ and then select ‘taking part in community testing’

People who do have COVID symptoms should follow the instructions on the website and then choose one of the mobile testing sites.

They should drive to the testing centre if they can, but if they cannot. they should call 01508 533 933 to have a test kit dropped off at their home.

From Friday, people can also pick up test kits, with no appointment needed, from Midwich Ltd, Vince's Road in Diss, between 9am and 7pm or from outside Roydon White Hart / Roydon Church from 9am to 7pm.

People unable to get to mobile testing units or to collect a testing kit to take home, can get them dropped off, while arrangements can be made for people to visit homes to help, via 01508 533933.

The council says, to protect from scams, officers will wear high visibility uniforms, with a very visible logo, PPE and visible identification.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been urged not to go out to get a test. The council says test kits will be delivered to them.

The council says people who have tested positive with a PCR test in the past 90 days do not need to get another test, but anyone who has tested positive through a rapid test will need another.

Surge testing has previously been carried out in other parts of the country in response to emerging variants of the virus.