South African COVID-19 variant testing gets a boost from Fire Service

Efforts to identify cases of the South African variant of the COVID-19 virus in Southport’s Norwood area receive a boost today when 15 Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service officers joined the team delivering home testing kits.

After a training session this morning, the fire officers joined the teams distributing home testing kits to residents and businesses within the target area and, where possible, waiting for people to test themselves and then hand back the sealed packs. The swabs will then be taken to a collection area and sent off to Government laboratories for analysis.

Dwayne Johnson, Sefton Council’s Chief Executive said: “Seeing the new dedicated testing centre open yesterday and the home testing kits starting to be distributed, within just a few days of us finding out the variant had been identified within the borough, was great.

“Well done all the council staff and also a huge thank you to our partners who are providing this invaluable support in rolling out this important initiative.”

Station Manager Steve Thomas said: “We are really happy to be able to help with the testing today – it’s in our nature to help our community however we can, whatever the situation.

“The service has been assisting partner organisations in the Local Resilience Forum and the wider community since the very beginning, through delivering prescriptions, helping at food banks and helping at mass testing centres, and this is just the latest way we can help.

“Hopefully our assistance today can help stop the spread of the virus and we can look forward to an end to the pandemic.”

Over the coming days, Sefton Council plans to speed up the process to make more tests available in the town’s Norwood ward area.

Opening hours for the Mobile Test Unit at the former Kew Park and Ride site, will be extended to 8am to 8pm. This will help make it easier for people in key roles who live and work in the area who have to go out to work to get a test.

Everyone involved in the process will carry clear identification. They will not ask for any money or financial details and they will never enter people’s homes. They will also be able to provide advice and information.

Despite the recent focus on the South African variant, Sefton Council has been reminding people across the borough of the need to continue following the national lockdown regulations.

This means staying at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home, providing care and going for a coronavirus test if we need one. And if we do go out, we all need to make sure we are maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing our hands frequently.

Anyone outside of the part of the Norwood ward area being targeted for the variant developing coronavirus symptoms should book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

SMART testing sites, at Southport’s Splash World, Bootle Leisure Centre and Aintree racecourse are open from 8am to 8pm for people with no coronavirus symptoms who are key workers and people with caring commitments during the lockdown. People in these groups should be going regularly for SMART tests, which tell people if they are carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing in as little as 30 minutes.

Further information, including tips about support during self-isolation, can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/covid19

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