September 27, 2020

Coronavirus: Walk-in centres ‘to help cope with winter’

Woman being tested for the virus using a swab test Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Swab tests are used to look for the presence of the virus

A network of coronavirus-testing walk-in centres is to be set up across England in an attempt to persuade more people to come forward for testing.

Several hundred walk-in units will be up and running by the end of October, in time for winter, when there is concern cases could start to rise.

They will complement the existing drive-through centres, mobile testing units and home-ordering service.

It comes amid concern people are still not coming forward for testing.

The government’s weekly random test of 30,000 people, run by the Office for National Statistics, suggests there are about 1,700 new infections a day.

But the testing service is picking up only about a third of those.

Some of that will be because people are not showing symptoms when they are infected.

But NHS Test and Trace head Baroness Harding said it was important people came forward even if they had just mild symptoms as its was the “most important lever” in keeping the virus at bay.

‘Share details’

“NHS Test and Trace relies on everyone playing their part,” she said.

“We all need to get a test if we have symptoms, share details of our contacts if we test positive and self-isolate when asked to do so.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Even among those who have tested positive, however, national NHS Test and Trace contact tracers have failed to reach 45% of the close contacts of infected people.

The local teams – drawn from councils and regional public health staff – reach over 98%.

But this is because they tend to focus on cases involving institutions, such as prisons, care homes and workplaces.

Mega-lab opening

Baroness Harding said no-one in urban areas should be further than a 30-minute walk away from one of the new walk-in centres, which have been piloted in a handful of places over recent weeks.

And the capacity to process tests is also being increased, with a new mega-lab opening in Newport, Gwent.

The ambition is that by the end of October 500,000 tests a day will be able to be processed.

Currently, the figure stands at just over 300,000.