The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is calling on more people to get testing for COVID-19 as more access to testing has been announced today.
Six new ‘walk through’ local testing sites are now offering appointments to people in England, with the capacity to test hundreds of people each day and are all easily accessible by foot or on a bike.
Three months since the first regional drive through test site was set up in Nottingham, there are now 68 such sites across the country.
However today, Friday June 26, it was announced alongside these six new walk-through sites in England, new mobile testing units, and special home test postboxes for safe and easy returns, will be available.
Free and accessible testing is a cornerstone of the new NHS Test and Trace service, which is working to stop the spread of coronavirus in local communities and to support the lifting of restrictions so people can see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in jobs.
The NHS Test and Trace service has identified 113,925 people as recent close contacts since the service began on 28 May 2020.
The new walk-through sites will bring testing to the heart of communities, by focusing on offering appointments to people without cars who can safely travel on foot, without coming into contact with others.
These sites will continue to be expanded where there is demand from local communities and will provide a convenient option, close to where people live and work.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It has never been easier to get a free coronavirus test, and our new walk-in centres are yet another way to get one.
“If you have symptoms, however mild, please get tested now to help stop the spread of the virus and protect the people around you.
“The biggest network of diagnostic testing in UK history is ready and able to offer a test to anyone, anywhere in the country.
“In England, NHS Test and Trace is there to help those testing positive to trace their recent contacts and advise those at risk to stay at home, ultimately saving lives.
“It is encouraging to see transmission of the virus is going down, but we all still have a part to play to limit this further.
“Getting tested as soon as you develop symptoms is an essential step to protect the most vulnerable and help us to safely ease lockdown measures.”
Home testing kits can now be returned without booking a courier service, allowing those choosing this testing option to post their testing kits at any of the 30,000 Royal Mail priority postboxes across the UK, which will all be marked by a regionalised NHS logo by 3 July.
In addition to this, 30 additional mobile testing units are now travelling the UK, responding to increased regional demand for testing, and supporting hard to reach areas.
Mobile testing enables temporary testing sites to be set up quickly to serve communities on a rolling basis and target specific demand.
This brings the total of mobile units to 147, currently staffed by military personnel in England, Scotland and Wales and by civilian staff in Northern Ireland.
This number will further increase to 236 across the United Kingdom by the end of July.
Specialised translation services will soon be offered across a range of 68 drive-through testing sites, to support people who don’t speak English as their first language such as Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Mandarin, Polish, and British Sign Language for people with hearing difficulties.
The expansion of testing announced today supports the existing NHS or Public Health England (PHE) infrastructure, which has more than doubled its testing capacity since the coronavirus pandemic began.
It also supports the government’s commitment to expand local direction of national testing resources and move to a more locally owned and delivered testing model.
The Lighthouse labs were created at the same time existing NHS England or PHE lab capacity was expanded, which allowed NHS capacity to be reserved to test patients and NHS staff while testing eligibility was broadened out through the lighthouse labs.
This has meant we have always had the ability to test patients and were able to widen tests to staff, key workers and eventually everyone.
Across the UK testing capacity has been expanded to more than 200,000 tests a day, meaning that anyone with symptoms can immediately book a test for free.
Local authorities in England will have greater autonomy to deliver different types of testing models which are suited to the needs of their population and local communities.
Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – should book a test immediately.
In England, anyone testing positive will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, to help them trace their recent contacts and further control the spread of the virus.