18 June 2021| | 4 min read
Supervised rapid testing to be suspended at Civic Centre
A testing facility for people without symptoms of Covid-19 at Newcastle’s Civic Centre is to be suspended next week as more and more people make use of widely-available home-testing kits.
Supervised Lateral Flow Device testing has been in operation at the site since January 2021, but with self-testing kits now readily available across the city, the facility will close with the last tests being carried out on June 25.
Over 9,500 tests have been carried out through the council-led community testing programme since it began in January. Around 900 tests were carried out per week at its peak in March, this has now dropped to around 100 per week, with some days having fewer than 10 bookings.
Staff who have helped run the site are already starting to support local test and trace and the citywide vaccination efforts. Newcastle City Council will retain the capacity to reinstate supervised LFD testing in future if required.
PCR testing centres, for people with symptoms of the virus, remain open. If you have a temperature, a new or continuous cough, or a loss or change to your senses of taste or smell, self-isolate immediately and book a test from https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
As per a shift of focus to the national Community Testing Programme, Newcastle City Council’s Community Testing Programme will move to engaging with communities that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 to encourage them to take part in regular testing.
The council will work with the vast Community Champions network in the city and key partners to encourage take up and identify additional locations within the community where people can collect self-testing kits.
Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health for Newcastle, said: “Our Community Testing Programme has provided thousands of tests to key workers and other residents in the city, helping to identify positive cases of the virus that might otherwise have been missed and led to wider outbreaks within the population.
“However, with asymptomatic testing now readily available across the city through home, school and workplace testing, the demand for the supervised testing has slowly diminished.
“It would be a better use of our resources, and more effective for our city, to instead focus our efforts on ensuring those communities that have experienced barriers to accessing testing, for whatever the reason, have the support they need to get tested regularly and make sure they aren’t carrying and potentially spreading the virus without realising.
“Alongside making sure we get vaccinated, regular testing remains a key tool in managing the spread of Covid-19. Cases in Newcastle and elsewhere in the country are rising, we need to remain vigilant, and we know that getting tested twice a week is a really effective way of identifying cases and breaking the chain of transmission.”
Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Public Health and Culture, said: “I’d like to thank all those who have helped run our testing sites at the Civic Centre and Westgate College; there is no doubt these facilities have helped to reduce outbreaks among residents and workforces in Newcastle, potentially saving countless lives.
“However, as the way people access asymptomatic testing changes, we need to be proactive and make sure we’re providing the best support to our communities that we can.
“Asymptomatic testing remains essential to helping us get back to normality, but we have to support residents into testing by means that are most convenient and appropriate to them and it is clear that a fixed testing facility is no longer the best way of achieving this.”
Lateral Flow Device tests can be used by people without symptoms of Covid-19 to identify if they have the virus without realising. As many as one in three infected people display no symptoms at all but could still pass the virus to others who may be at a greater risk of serious illness.
To find out where you can collect self-testing kits, which should be used twice weekly, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing/regular-rapid-coronavirus-tests-if-you-do-not-have-symptoms/