Over 15,000 Covid-19 tests have been carried out or collected for home testing across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, as part of the community surge testing programme, which launched on Sunday 7 February.
Of the total, 7,600 tests were carried out at mobile testing units (MTUs) in the first three days of the programme in Bristol and South Gloucestershire (Sunday 7 February to Tuesday 9 February).
Furthermore, over 7,500 tests were collected for home testing from community based Collect and Drop locations in Bristol and South Gloucestershire in the first day of sites opening (on Tuesday 9 February). Of those visiting Collect and Drop locations in Bristol, almost a quarter have returned their tests already. Officials are reminding everyone with home kits to take their tests, register them and return them as soon as possible.
People living or working in one of 24 specific postcodes have been invited to get a test as part of an investigation being undertaken by local authorities, Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care. This is to establish the prevalence of a change in the variant of the Covid-19 virus first found in Kent, which has been located in parts of Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
In an announcement released yesterday evening (Tuesday 9 February), Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s strategic response director, advised the confirmed number of cases of this changed variant in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area currently stands at 14.
It was also announced that the variant (VOC202102/02) that is being searched for in the area is classed as a “variant of concern”. This reclassification is a result of the discovery that the changes in the virus being searched for in the Bristol area is shared by the South African variant of the virus being looked for elsewhere in country.
Sara Blackmore, Director of Public Health at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “The response to our community surge testing programme has been nothing short of incredible. We wish to thank all those residents who have taken the time to attend a testing site or Collect and Drop location, often in bitterly cold conditions. We continue to ask that people collecting a test from one of our Collect and Drop sites must register their test at home, and return the test to the site, as soon as possible. It has been a challenge to get these sites set up and working efficiently so we are grateful for everyone’s effort and patience.
“The tests will help Public Health scientists to better understand what is happening as the virus changes, and to make sure that the vaccines remain effective in protecting us all. Their work so far indicates that the growth rate of this form of the virus is relatively small, but we are only into day four of our two-week programme. We expect case numbers to increase but are confident that if everyone continues to follow public health guidance and national lockdown rules the number of new cases can be kept at a minimum.”
Further MTUs were announced yesterday and have begun operating today (Wednesday 10 February). These sites can be found at:
- The Imperial Sports Ground, West Town Lane, BS14 9EA
- Yate Common, Westerleigh Road, BS37 8RZ
All MTU sites are open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
An additional MTU will be added at Shaftsbury Park, Frenchay Park Road, BS16 1LG in South Gloucestershire, from Thursday 11 February.
Residents with no Covid-19 symptoms who are over the age of 16 and live or travel to one of the 24 identified postcode sectors for work or to visit someone in their support bubble are eligible for a test.
No appointment is required to get a test at the MTU sites or to collect a kit from a community Collect and Drop location. Plans to introduce a booking system have been put on hold whilst extra testing sites are being brought online and will be considered again if needed.
Christina Gray, Director of Public Health at Bristol City Council, said: “This extra capacity in the testing system means we can continue to offer people the chance to collect or receive a test without the need for an appointment. We’re grateful to those who have already braved the cold and queued on foot and in their cars and hopefully with these new sites coming online those queues won’t grow any greater. There’s still a week and a half to go of this testing programme so plenty of opportunity for people to get a test.
“Initial plans to consider large scale door to door testing are being replaced by focussed work within specific communities to further encourage testing within the postcodes listed.”
Currently (Wednesday 10 February) Collect and Drop sites in Bristol include:
- Fishponds Library, Robinson House, Hockey’s Ln, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 3HL
- Henleaze Library, 30 Northumbria Dr, Henleaze, Bristol, BS9 4HP
- Junction 3 Library, 138b Lower Ashley Rd, Easton, Bristol, BS5 0FJ
- Whitchurch Library, 7 Oatlands Ave, Bristol, BS14 0SX
- Wick Road Library, Wick Rd, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 4HE
Collect and Drop sites in South Gloucestershire include:
- Emersons Green Library, Emersons Way, Emersons Green, BS16 7AP
- Downend Library, Buckingham Gardens, Downend, BS16 5TW
- Staple Hill Library, Broad St, Staple Hill, BS16 5LS
- Shireway Community Centre, Shire Way, Yate, BS37 8YS
Additional Collect and Drop locations are also being introduced for South Gloucestershire at:
- Westerleigh Village Hall, Shorthill Rd, BS37 8QL, open from Thursday 11 February
- Hambrook Cricket Club, Moorend Road, Hambrook Winterbourne, BS16 1SJ, opening on Friday 12 February.
The Collect and Drop sites are dependent on government supply of the tests. Sites may need to close early so people are encouraged to check the Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council websites and social media regularly. As an alternative you can attend an MTU.