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South African COVID-19 variant testing gets a boost from Fire Service today

Photograph showing a Home Testing Kit being delivered to an addressin the Norwood ward area
A Home Testing Kit being delivered to an address in the Norwood ward area

Efforts to identify cases of the South African variant of the COVID-19 virus in Southport’s Norwood area receive a boost today when 15 Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service officers join the team delivering home testing kits.

After a training session this morning, the fire officers will join the teams distributing home testing kits to residents and businesses within the target area and where possible, waiting for people test themselves and then hand back the sealed packs. The swabs will then be taken to a collection area and sent off to Government laboratories for analysis.

Dedicated

Dwayne Johnson, Sefton Council’s Chief Executive said: “Seeing the new dedicated testing centre open yesterday and the home testing kits starting to be distributed, within just a few days of us finding out the variant had been identified within the Borough, was great.

“Well done all the Council staff and also a huge thank you to our partners who are providing this invaluable support in rolling out this important initiative.”

Assisting

Station Manager Steve Thomas said: “We are really happy to be able to help with the testing today- it’s in our nature to help our community however we can, whatever the situation.

“The Service has been assisting partner organisations in the Local Resilience Forum and the wider community since the very beginning, through delivering prescriptions, helping at food banks and helping at mass testing centres, and this is just the latest way we can help.

“Hopefully our assistance today can help stop the spread of the virus and we can look forward to an end to the pandemic.”

Coming days

Over the coming days, Sefton Council plans to speed up the process to make more tests available in the town’s Norwood ward area.

Opening hours for the Mobile Test Unit at the former Kew Park and Ride site, will be extended to 8am to 8pm. This will help make it easier for people in key roles who live and work in the area who have to go out to work to get a test.

Everyone involved in the process will carry clear identification. They will not ask for any money or financial details and they will never enter people’s homes. They will also be able to provide advice and information.

Testing guidance

To help you take a swab, the NHS has made step-by step guidance videos:

Lockdown regulations

Despite the recent focus on the South African variant, Sefton Council has been reminding people across the Borough of the need to continue following the national lockdown regulations.

This means staying 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.

Anyone outside of the part of the Norwood ward area being targeted for the variant developing coronavirus symptoms should book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

SMART testing sites, at Southport’s Splash World, Bootle Leisure Centre and Aintree racecourse are open from 8am to 8pm 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

 

Dedicated testing for South African variant underway

Today (Wednesday 3rd Feb) will see a new, dedicated Mobile Test Unit open in the Norwood 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 from the Norwood ward only. All other residents should not use this site. 

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 Norwood ward.

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.

Testing guidance

To help you take a swab, the NHS has made step-by step guidance videos:

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 Norwood ward 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

Council finalising testing arrangements to help detect and contain coronavirus variant

 

Plans are swiftly being finalised by Sefton Council as part of the national drive to detect and contain the new South African variant of the COVID-19 virus.

The South African coronavirus variant has been identified in a number of locations across the country including in Sefton’s Southport area.

There is nothing to suggest the vaccines that are now being rolled out won’t work against the variant but there are concerns that it is more transmissible, meaning it could be spread more easily and quickly.

Details

Details of where a Mobile Testing Unit, due to be open from Wednesday 3rd February, can be sited are being finalised and a team of people to knock on doors to provide and collect home testing kits for local residents is being mobilised. The Council has been told supplies of test kits are due to be delivered later today and aims to start delivering them to people’s homes tomorrow.

Sefton Council is also working with the DHSC on a range of targeted local publicity and information including posters, local radio and social media. This will include details of exactly what they can expect when someone calls with a test as well as information and advice on self-isolation.

Vital

Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said: “Finding cases of the new South African COVID-19 variant and reducing the number of people who could be exposed to it is vital, which is why we are focusing testing facilities on the area and trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get tested.

“Anyone over 16 within the area can go along and get tested without an appointment and I would urge them to do so as soon as possible so we can nip any spread of the new variant in the bud.”

Advice and support for people who do test positive with any strain of the COVID-19 virus will be provided on the ground and online at www.sefton.gov.uk/self-isolation.

National regulations

Mrs Jones repeated her reminder that whether they are in the identified area or not, people across Sefton should continue strictly following the national regulations to protect themselves and others. This means staying at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home and providing care.

She also stressed the importance of people across the Borough maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing their hands frequently.

People outside of the area identified for the South African variant testing who develop coronavirus symptoms of a high temperature, persistent new cough or loss of their sense of taste or smell, should book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.

Mobile Test Units have been operating in Sefton since April. Units are scheduled at locations across the Borough through February.

Easy access

There are also walk-through test sites at Bootle Town Hall, Crosby Library Car Park, Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall. Open every day from 8am to 8pm, providing easy access to COVID-19 tests for people who do not have access to a car and for those who have symptoms and should not travel by public transport.

Key workers and people with caring commitments during the lockdown should go regularly for SMART tests, which tell people if they are carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing in as little as 30 minutes.

Open from 8am to 8pm to make it easier for working people to attend them, the walk-through SMART testing sites are at Bootle Leisure Centre, Splash World in Southport and Aintree Racecourse. No appointments are needed.

Support and advice, including information on financial support, is available at www.sefton.gov.uk/self-isolation for anyone who is required to isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Council responds to announcement on South Africa COVID-19 variant

Council responds to announcement on South Africa COVID-19 variant

Responding to the announcement that testing for the new South African variant of Covid-19 will be starting in the Borough, Sefton Council Leader Cllr Ian Maher said: “I am pleased to see the Government acting promptly to implement this programme to test for the presence and possible spread of this new variant with the aim of bringing it under control quickly.

“I am also confident that our local communities will, as they have throughout the pandemic, follow the guidance on testing, self-isolation and the wider lockdown measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and help protect those who are vulnerable to it.”

Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said: “Although it seems this new variant can still be combated through vaccination, it could be more transmissible, which means it could spread more quickly.

“That’s why it is important we carry out this additional testing to try and identify it and to limit the number of us who might be exposed to it.

“We will be setting up dedicated test sites for the new variant and once they are in place, I would encourage everyone aged over 16 in the areas targeted to get tested as soon as possible, even though they don’t have symptoms. This will help us find any cases of the new variant and help stamp it out.

“There is no reason for most of us to change our behaviour as a result of this news as long as we are already following the national regulations.

“This means staying at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home and providing care. It also means maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing our hand frequently.”

Sefton Council and its partners are still working out exactly how the additional tests are going to take place in the light of today’s announcement but comprehensive testing has been in place across the Borough since April. This has been through a combination of pop-up mobile test units at various sites and permanent walk-through testing sites for people with coronavirus symptoms, and three SMART test centres for people with no symptoms.

Testing guidance

To help you take a swab, the NHS has made step-by step guidance videos:

Mrs Jones added: “People across Sefton have taken full advantage of the range of testing available and I am confident those within the area covered by the new variant tests will respond positively to the Minister’s request to get tested. ”

“However, for anyone concerned we will be working with our partners to provide advice and support online and on the ground so that we can work together and continue to make progress towards a return to a more normal life for all of us.”

Positive tests will be sequenced to identify any further spread of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa, enabling a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area.

In total, Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa since 22 December. All cases and their contacts have been contacted and told to self-isolate. Other postcode areas where enhanced testing will be taking place are in London , the West Midlands , the East of England  and the South East.

Announcing the testing, Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.

“The UK is a global leader in Covid-19 genomics, and because of this, we have been able to identify new strains of the virus and take decisive action. We continue to closely monitor new variants, here and around the world, and in addition to our already extensive testing service, we are making surge testing capacity available to affected areas.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Strategic Response Director to Public Health England and Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace said: “As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England. A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community.

“In response to this, we are ramping up testing in targeted areas, so we can gather more information and effectively monitor any further community transmission.”

As well as mobile test units, the four local walk-through test centres for people with symptoms are at Bootle Town Hall, Crosby Library Car Park, Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall. SMART test centres for people with no symptoms who have to go out for work or caring purposes are at Aintree Racecourse, Bootle Leisure Centre and Splash World in Southport.

Details of COVID testing in Sefton.

Dr Andrew Furber, Regional Director at Public Health England North West, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Sefton. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

New tips for self-isolating

10 Days of Self-Isolation
10-Days of Self Isolation tips

Self-isolation is when we do not leave our home because we have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19). It helps stop us spreading the virus to other people.

We are all legally required to self-isolate for 10 days if we test positive got coronavirus or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. We could be fined up to £10,000 if we do not self-isolate.

There are now 10 tips on how to self-isolate for 10 days on our website

Subjects covered include:

  • planning your food and shopping deliveries
  • financial support
  • medical contacts and advice;
  • first aid kit and pharmacy deliveries,
  • caring for others
  • looking after your physical and mental wellbeing
  • stopping the spread of the virus at home and cleaning plans for if someone tests positive
  • arrangements for pet care.

You can find the 10 tips for 10 days here.

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