EAST Staffordshire is one of 67 councils to be in the first wave of mass testing in the fight against coronavirus. Large scale community testing was expected to begin from Monday as part of the UK Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan.
The news comes as Covid-19 cases in the seven days to December 9 had fallen to less than three in Uttoxeter Heath – meaning the virus was classes as ‘supressed’ in that ward. However, cases in Uttoxeter Town doubled from four to eight, although the rolling rate remained below the national average for England.
Cases in Mayfield, Rocester and Bramshall dropped by six to just four, while 13 cases were recorded in Abbots Bromley, Yoxall and Marchington. In Doveridge, Brailsford and Bradley, a 30% fall saw just seven cases recorded.
The fall in numbers isn’t across the board for East Staffordshire though, with several wards in Burton seeing a rise in cases, with Burton Shobnall recording 34, Burton Eton Park 39 and Burton Winshill 43 cases, putting them into a ‘hotspot’ area along with Anglesey, Horninglow, Branston and Brizlincote.
Health chiefs at Staffordshire County Council are making a plea for people to get a test if they live in one of the county’s ‘hotspot’ areas – even if they don’t have symptoms. People in the hotspot areas should book a test either at one of the rapid Covid community testing sites or through the national portal at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test choosing the option ‘my local council has asked me to book a test.’
Identified ‘hotspot’ areas will be announced by the council every week. Dr Johnny McMahon, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing, said: “With cases on the rise as we head to the easing of restrictions over Christmas it is important that we get back on top of the situation In Staffordshire.
“By acting swiftly to test people without symptoms in these areas we can stop the spread and look forward to getting back to the things we all enjoy. So, it is a very simple plea I would like to make – if you live or work in a hotspot area please book a test immediately.”
The UK government is set to review the restrictions imposed across England today (Wednesday, December 16) and leaders in Staffordshire have been campaigning for the county to be taken out of the harshest Tier 3 measures.
The government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan aims to provide a route out of Tier 3 restrictions by deploying more than 1.6 million rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests to detect asymptomatic cases and drive down transmission in highest risk areas Over 100 local authorities are expected to run programmes in the new year.
The mass testing is expected to take place for a minimum of six weeks in a bid to drive down transmission. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am really pleased to announce the first areas embarking on enhanced community testing programmes – after the successful work in Liverpool. With one in three people with coronavirus showing no symptoms, increased community testing is a vital additional tool at our disposal to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease.”
Community testing builds on the nearly 1.5 million lateral flow test kits which have already been delivered to 90 local authorities across all levels of tier restrictions to date, through the Directors of Public Health programme. Extensive clinical evaluation has been carried out on the lateral flow tests by Public Health England and the University of Oxford which show these tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community.
Asymptomatic testing works hand in hand with the existing PCR testing service for those with COVID-19 symptoms as part of the comprehensive NHS Test and Trace testing offer. With more than 700 test centres across the country, including 79 drive-through sites, 386 local test sites, 20 satellite test sites, 258 mobile testing units, and home testing, the average distance a person travels to visit a test site is now just 2.3 miles.
The government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan sets out steps to drive down transmission of the virus, reduce its prevalence and so reduce the number of deaths and serious illnesses. Alongside the vaccine rollout which has now begun, tiering restrictions, and investment in NHS capacity, continued developments in the testing programme make it possible to reduce cases in the areas where the need is greatest.
On December 8 last week, Staffordshire County Council member for Uttoxeter, Cllr David Brookes, spoke at a meeting of Uttoxeter Town Council where he welcomed news of a Covid-19 vaccine roll-out. He said: “The most important thing I want to tell you and share with you is that tomorrow at Stoke City Hospitals, they are starting the roll out of the vaccine programme.
“I certainly want to see that roll-out as soon as possible. As community leaders we must encourage people to take this vaccine. To think that residents and people in Staffordshire hospitals are going to be having this vaccine – that’s fantastic news.”
Anyone with one or more of these symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – should book a test online at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
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