New testing site confirmed for Jarrow - centre will offer walk-through appointments to help tackle cases spike

A new ‘local testing site’ will be set up in Jarrow to help boost capacity for Covid-19 screening, public health bosses have confirmed.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 3:29 pm
A coronavirus testing centre similar to the one which will open in South Tyneside, offering walk-through appointments for people who need tests but do not have access to a car. Picture by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
A coronavirus testing centre similar to the one which will open in South Tyneside, offering walk-through appointments for people who need tests but do not have access to a car. Picture by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Concerns have been raised over pressures in the national testing system, with reports of some being offered swabs miles outside the area when applying through the NHS Test and Trace service.

Mobile testing units have been in place at various locations in South Tyneside, including at Temple Park and Little Haven.

Earlier in September, it was revealed that plans for an additional testing site were being developed following approval from the Department of Health and Social Care.

It has now been confirmed the ‘semi-permanent’ centre will be based in the Jarrow area, with further details expected on the specific location.

“We have had approval for what is called a local testing site,” said Tom Hall, South Tyneside’s director of public health.

“That’s different to a mobile testing unit, which is very much a pop-up arrangement that you can put in place in a car park or an open space – which is why we have had it at Little Haven car park and Temple Park.

“But this local testing site is a semi-permanent fixture where we are using indoor venues so it is much more suitable for the winter.”

He added: “We have had approval for a site in Jarrow so the Department of Health and Social Care are working with us to set up a site.

“They need to go out and view our primary option that we have put back to them and once we have got feedback from that, then we will be able to announce that publicly and give a timescale for when that will be up and running.”

Mr Hall was speaking at a meeting of the borough’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which was held via videolink and broadcast live on YouTube.

The comments followed a question from the panel’s chair and leader of South Tyneside Council, Cllr Iain Malcolm, about testing in the borough.

Cllr Malcolm noted reports of people in other areas being sent as far as Scotland for tests and asked whether South Tyneside’s mobile units would provide enough capacity going forward.

Public health boss, Tom Hall, responded: “We have not been without our challenges around testing too.

“We have received some complaints from people who have had similar issues been given testing slots in Galashiels or Carlisle.

“But we have also been able to respond to those queries after checking them out with the Department of Health and Social Care.”

He added: “Although we had a couple of queries two weeks ago, over the last week we have not had similar sorts of queries, so the fact we have got the mobile testing units in the borough is helping alleviate some of those pressures.

“That said, we do know that the whole testing system has been under strain over the last few weeks and that has been a national issue and obviously the Government has been seeking to respond to that.”

Once operational, Jarrow’s local testing site would improve access for residents who do not have their own transport or live a long way from testing facilities.

People will be encouraged to pre-book an appointment and will be provided with a testing kit to enable them to take their own sample in a private booth at the centre.

The sample will then be collected and sent to a lab for testing.

The rolling seven-day rate of new cases of coronavirus in every upper-tier local authority across England places the borough 10th out of 343 council areas following new figures published on Tuesday, September 22.

Public health bosses say the rapid rise in cases in South Tyneside, which started from late-August, were not linked to one particular outbreak such as the Burnside football match in Sunderland.

They added that anyone struggling to get a test in a “local or convenient” location should continue checking the NHS website or call the new 119 telephone number for more screening slots being released.

Enhanced contact tracing is also under way, separate to the NHS Test and Trace service, to identify connections between Covid-19 cases and venues or areas in South Tyneside.

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