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The way Suffolk continues to test its residents for Coronavirus is changing with a much greater focus on home testing.
Suffolk currently has 28 rapid lateral flow testing centres across the county for people who need to leave their homes and do not have symptoms of Coronavirus. However, since the initial plans, the asymptomatic testing landscape has changed in the UK and there is now a Government-led focus towards home testing.
This includes the introduction of:
Home testing for school and college students, teachers and nursery staff
Home testing for family bubbles of pupils and teachers - who can
order test kit online
pick up test kits from testing sites
Testing in businesses of any size and soon to be available businesses collect (where employees can take test kits home)
Home testing for care staff
Director of Public Health allocation – in future DPH will be able to allocate home test kit packs based on need
In response to this greater emphasis on home testing, there will be changes to the 28 community sites.
New testing sites are planned to open in Ipswich and Newmarket town centres and Ipswich’s Portman Road area to take advantage of passing footfall as lockdown restrictions continue to ease. There will also be the creation of four mobile testing teams, who can visit anywhere in Suffolk at short notice, bolster testing in communities and also respond to any outbreaks.
In addition, 14 testing centres will close – 4 of these will close from Wednesday <March 31st>. The remaining 10 will close on April 16th. Fourteen test centres will remain open across Suffolk.
Since the sites opened in January, more than 57,000 people have been tested, with 140 positive cases found.
Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “The number of people in Suffolk getting a regular test is significantly growing and this is welcome news in our fight against Coronavirus.
“We know from feedback from people, who use our sites, that home testing is often the preferred manner to take a test and the eligibility of home testing is going to expand significantly over the coming months. For me, the key element here is that people continue to test twice weekly – however they may choose to do this. The mobile testing teams will also allow us to reach people who may be at greater risk, or where testing take-up is low.
“The Government asked us to open testing sites as quickly as possible and it was always our aim to make these as accessible and close to people’s homes. We fully expected to adapt this programme as needed and when the national focus changed.”
Home testing kits can now be collected from testing sites. Each person can routinely collect two boxes of seven tests, with the option to collect up to four boxes for larger households if approved by testing centre staff. It is recommended that while people are at the centres they do a supervised test so they experience the right way to do the tests. The results of all home testing kits should be logged online or by ringing 119. This way rates in Suffolk can continue to be monitored.
Sites to close by 31st March:
Aldeburgh, Southwold, Woodbridge, Bungay
Sites due to close on 16th April
Nayland, Brandon, Elmswell, Needham Market, Holbrook, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Eye, Saxmundham, Debenham
Sites which will remain open (reduced operating hours)
Ipswich University of Suffolk, Bury, Lowestoft South, Lowestoft North, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Felixstowe, Ipswich West. Stowmarket, Martlesham, Sudbury, Beccles, Framlingham
New sites planned/ relocations
Ipswich Town Centre
Ipswich Portman Road area
Newmarket Town Centre
4 mobile teams (5 people plus team leader)
For deployment to:
Local outbreaks/ areas of high incidence
Leisure and tourist hotspots (eg parks/beaches/markets)
Areas where test centres have closed and there is a continued need for support with regular testing.