Extra rapid test sites rolled out in Norfolk to stem Covid spread
- Credit: Suffolk County Council
Further rapid Covid-19 testing sites are being rolled out across Norfolk, with the county's director of public health urging people to get tested to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Coronavirus rates are falling in every district in Norfolk, with the county's overall rate up to February 6 down to 194 cases per 100,000 people - a reduction of 79.
But more than 1,500 in Norfolk who had tested positive for Covid-19 have died since the start of the pandemic and Norfolk County Council says the lateral flow tests, which give a result in about 30 minutes, could be key to halting the spread.
They say they can identify people who are asymptomatic, so they and their household can self-isolate.
A trial took place in King's Lynn before Christmas, while Great Yarmouth has also been piloting the tests.
And mobile testing sites the public can attend are now starting up in King’s Lynn, Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth, Caister, Hemsby and Scratby, with further sites due in parts of South Norfolk and Norwich towards the end of the week.
People who live in those areas can book tests or just turn up without an appointment for a test.
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So far 1,329 people have been tested, with six returning a positive result for Covid-19 - five in Great Yarmouth out of 674 and one in Kings Lynn out of 655.
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's public health director, said: “One in three people with coronavirus have no symptoms, which means they can be spreading the virus without knowing.
"These rapid tests help us to find these people so that we can break the train of transmission.
“We have already piloted the testing in King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth and are now rolling out sites to areas in each district where the virus is most prevalent.
"The aim is to identify those who might be carrying and spreading the virus without knowing it, so that we can help reduce the spread.
“Although a negative test might provide some reassurance to people, it is not a guarantee that you don’t have the virus, so if you do visit the test centre and the result is negative please do keep following the national restrictions, as well as following the hands, face and space guidelines.
"This will help further bring down rates of Covid in our county.”
Dr Smith said the majority of people who get tests will be negative, but that the number of future cases can be reduced by getting those who do test positive to self-isolate.
Social distancing and face masks are required at testing sites, except when taking the test.
Tests on the site will be self-administered with trained staff from Norse observing to ensure that the correct process is followed. The results will be texted or emailed.
Those who test positive should isolate immediately and work with national or local contact tracers to identify their close contacts.
Decisions on where community testing should take place are made by clinicians, who will analyse the latest case rates and risks of transmission.
In West Norfolk, sites have been set up at Fairstead Community Centre and St James Swimming Pool in King's Lynn and at the Oasis Leisure Centre in Hunstanton.
In Great Yarmouth, the site is at Hawkins Close Community Room, in Caister, it is at The Old Hall, at the village hall in Hemsby and at All Saints Village Hall in Scratby.
Opening times vary and should be checked on the county council website.
People who do have symptoms will still need to book tests in the usual way through the www.gov.uk website.
Stuart Dark, West Norfolk Council cabinet member for environmental services and public protection, said: "Any one of us could have the virus and could be spreading it unknowingly because we do not have any symptoms.
"This testing is an extra tool to help us reduce the opportunity for the virus to be transmitted.
"Even if the test result is negative, it is still vitally important that people follow the lockdown restrictions and that when they are out for shopping, work or other essential appointments, they adhere to social distancing, handwashing and they wear a face covering when required."
People can book an appointment by scanning the QR Code or by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/rapidtesting.
People attending tests should wear masks, observe social distancing and have a mobile phone, so they can get their results.