People urged to get Covid test twice a week
- Credit: Suffolk County Council
People in Norfolk are being urged to get tested for coronavirus twice a week - with more sites where people can get a result in about 30 minutes being rolled out.
With pupils going back to the classroom from Monday, Norfolk County Council's director of public health said testing and vaccinations are key to keeping the county's falling Covid-19 rates moving in the right direction.
Testing for secondary school pupils will be done in schools, initially, although the aim is to switch to home testing.
But Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's public health director, is also encouraging people to get tested twice a week if they are returning to work or planning to visit relatives in care homes.
Norfolk's overall infection rate is down to 59 cases per 100,000 people, but health bosses are keen to stress how testing, along with measures such as washing hands and social distancing, is key to stemming the spread.
Dr Smith said: “The best way to move back to a more normal life is through regular testing and vaccination.
“Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should still be tested, if you’re going to work or you are visiting a care home.
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"Next week will see significant changes to the rules, with schools reopening and care home visits starting up again.
"The support to get us out of restrictions is a combination of regular testing and vaccination.
"And it's important that everybody participates in having regular tests, so we are encouraging every adult who is out and about, at work or visiting care homes, along with staff and students in schools, to have a test twice a week."
Mobile testing sites, where people can get a lateral test, which gives a result in about half an hour, have previously been running in King’s Lynn, Hunstanton, Great Yarmouth, Caister, Hemsby and Scratby.
But they are now being offered - or about to be offered - at locations in Norwich, South Norfolk and Broadland.
People are able to book appointments in places such as Catton Grove Community Centre and Greenfield Community Centre in Norwich, Jubilee Hall in Loddon and Hethersett Village Hall.
Acle Recreation Centre and Bob Carter Leisure Centre in Drayton will also be used for tests.
So far the sites have done more than 13,000 tests and detected between 50 and 100 cases.
The idea is that, by identifying people who are asymptomatic - in that they have Covid-19 but none of the symptoms - they and their household can self-isolate to stem the spread of the virus.
Social distancing and face masks are required at testing sites, except when taking the test.
Tests on the site are self-administered, with trained staff from Norse observing to ensure that the correct process is followed.
Results are texted or emailed.
Those who test positive should isolate immediately and work with national or local contact tracers to identify their close contacts.
And workplace testing for coronavirus is also being accelerated in Norfolk.
Thousands of Norfolk workers are already getting tested twice a week - with about 40 companies having signed up for the rapid tests, which can give a result in about 30 minutes.
And health bosses said such testing is about to start in another group of about 30 to 40 companies.
That will mean a further 7,000 people will be doing tests twice a week.
Norfolk County Council says it has also supported testing set up in 173 early years settings, such a nurseries, which will now move to staff being tested at home.
The council said healthcare staff have been doing regular testing for some time, but the next step is to get about 6,000 local government staff tested.
The highest local authority infection rate in Norfolk is currently in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, at 91 per 100,000, while North Norfolk’s rate of 36.2 was the lowest.
In Great Yarmouth and Breckland, rates are at 84 and 79 per 100,000, while Norwich has a rate of 56 per 100,000. Meanwhile South Norfolk and Broadland returned rates of 54 and 50 respectively.
People can make an appointment for a rapid test via www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus/testing/symptom-free-testing
People who do have symptoms should not get a test that way, but should organise one via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test