Today (Wednesday 3rd Feb) will see a new, dedicated Mobile Test Unit open in the PR9 area of Southport, as part of national measures to identify and stamp out the South African variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Located at the former Kew Park and Ride site, the new mobile units will be open from 8am to 4pm, which will be extended to 8am to 8pm within the coming days. Sefton Council has set up the new mobile site specifically for people living and working within the affected area.
Additionally, today a team will start delivering the 10,000 home test kits, that were delivered to Sefton Council last night, to addresses in the area affected.
Made up of Council and Fire Service staff reassigned from other roles and local voluntary service members, the team will take the test kits to homes and businesses. Where possible, they will wait while people test themselves then deliver the swabs to a collection area. They will also be able to provide advice and information including details of how to self-isolate if necessary and the support available.
Results showing whether people have tested positive for COVID-19 will come through in about two days, as is normal with this kind of PCR test. Analysis of the swabs to identify the presence of the South African variant at Laboratories is expected to take up to 10 days.
Sefton Council is reminding local people that anyone involved in this process will carry clear Council identification and that they will not be asked for any money or to provide financial details. They will never enter people’s homes.
Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said: “Having been told that the variant had been identified in the Borough late on Saturday, I am pleased that we have been able to get this testing for the area up and running today. It is a real testament to the way everyone has worked to make this programme work.
“We want everyone aged 16 and over in the affected area to take one of these specific tests, either using the home test kit that will be delivered to them or by using the dedicated Mobile Unit at the former Kew Park and Ride site. This will help us identify and nip this variant, which could be more transmissible meaning that it could spread more quickly, in the bud.”
Despite its potentially greater transmission rate, there is nothing to suggest the vaccines that are currently being rolled out across the country.
Responding to questions that have arisen nationally about what lockdown measures people in the affected areas should be taking, Mrs Jones said: “We are not asking people in the affected area of Southport to do anything different from anyone across the rest of the Borough or the rest of the country.
“It remains vital that all of us protect ourselves and others and that means sticking to the national lockdown regulations.
“We need to stay at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home, providing care and going for a coronavirus test if we need one.
“And if we do go out, we all need to make sure we are maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing our hands frequently.”
Mrs Jones went on to explain that people across the rest of Sefton, outside of the part of the PR9 postcode being targeted for the variant that if they develop coronavirus symptoms, they need to book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
She also explained that SMART testing sites, at Southport’s Splash World, Bootle Leisure Centre and Aintree racecourse were only for people with no coronavirus symptoms who are key workers and people with caring commitments during the lockdown. People in these groups should be going regularly for SMART tests, which tell people if they are carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing in as little as 30 minutes.
Further information, including tips about support during self-isolation, can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/covid19