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From today, residents in Basildon without symptoms of Covid-19 will be the first in Essex to be able to book new fast tests to check if they have the virus.
Basildon’s Covid-19 infection rate is currently among the highest in England and continues to rise fast, so the borough is the first place in Essex to offer the new Lateral Flow Tests to the wider population, which give results in around 30 minutes.
Residents living in the Fryerns, Pitsea, Vange and Wickford areas of Basildon, where infection rates are the highest, are the first in the borough being invited to book tests from today on 01268 962383, 01268 962384, 01702 742172 or 01702 742173. Lines are open from 8am to 8pm, every day including Saturday and Sunday.
Leaflets will also be distributed to these districts beginning this week inviting people to attend for tests, and people will be invited to book via the telephone lines above.
These tests will be carried out at the Towngate Theatre, St. Martins Square, Basildon, SS14 1DL, from Tuesday 8th December onwards. This testing centre has capacity for 400 people to be tested each day.
The tests are ONLY for people for who do not have symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should book a test via the NHS Test and Trace App, or at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
The Essex Test and Trace Service has already begun to refer the contacts of people who have tested positive for the new fast tests to the Towngate LFT centre.
GP surgeries in Basildon will also be contacting residents from today to offer LFT testing.
Dr Mike Gogarty, Essex’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “If you live in any of these four areas of Basildon, it is essential that you go for one of these new tests, even if you are well.
“Infection rates in Basildon are now among the highest in the country, and local NHS services are coming under strain as a result.
“We MUST ensure that the brilliant staff at Basildon Hospital can continue to work for everyone.
“Testing people who feel well will help identify the hidden cases in the community – people who may be unwittingly infecting others. If you test positive with one of the new fast tests, you will be asked to self-isolate, and take a further test to confirm the initial result.
“This will really help us double down on Covid-19 and through people self-isolating now, help everyone enjoy Christmas, as the self-isolation period for both identified new cases and their contacts will be up before Christmas.”
Cllr Callaghan said: “We agreed to enter into Tier 2 early on the proviso that we would be the first for the lateral flow tests, which give results in around 30 minutes. We have been ready to get the ball rolling since 15 October, so it is hard to understand why the Government and Essex County Council have taken almost two months to get their house in order.
“The ECC and government delays, has put Basildon in a precarious position with our infection rate now rising to one of the highest in the country. This never needed to happen.
“It is imperative now that ECC and partners really listen to Basildon Council and up the pace of their response to this growing issue in the borough. And not just on testing.
“Schools must also be prioritised in the response. It is imperative that schools now close early for Christmas as cases continue to rise among the young and teaching staff, at alarming rates. We must end the confusion and chaotic approach to this across the borough. We need to stop this age group from mixing and this needs to happen at least two weeks before Christmas when families, including elderly relatives, will be sitting down together for their Christmas dinner.
“No one wants further restrictions imposed on us but that is a very real possibility if we don’t all continue to play our part now.”
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health at Essex County Council, said: “We are utterly determined to do all we can to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in Basildon.
“Targeted testing programmes, starting in the worst affected areas and already being rolled out in schools in the borough, are how we will do this.
“Testing and self-isolation will do more than any other weapon in our armoury to limit the spread. No-one wants further restrictions or lockdowns.
“Playing your part now means, along with following social distancing rules, going for a test if you live in an area which is being asked to do so.”