Burnley and Pendle's walk-in Covid test centres to close in major shake-up

Burnley and Pendle's walk-in Covid testing stations will close later this week after the government told officials in the county that they would no longer be able to order the kits on which the facilities rely.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 6:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 6:08 pm
Asymptomatic Covid testing was introduced in hotspot areas of the county over the summer

The sites - opposite Burnley bus station and in Sacred Heart Church Hall on Queen Street in Colne – were set up because of rapidly-increasing rates of Covid-19 in the districts.

Unlike tests arranged via the national system, these so-called “community” testing facilities are available to people without either an appointment or symptoms.

They were established in an attempt to get a better understanding of the spread of the virus in badly affected areas – and bring it under control – by identifying asymptomatic cases.

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However, capacity issues in other parts of the testing system meant that they became increasingly popular – often with residents from outside of the areas where they were located.

The community stations also moved from daily to five-day-a-week operation last month, after it emerged that the specialist kits being used at the facilities were in limited supply.

The Lancashire Resilience Forum recently announced that it was aiming to open at least one semi-permanent testing centre in each district of the county during the autumn - Pendle's is already in operation at the ACE Centre on Cross Street in Nelson,

However, it is unclear whether there will be any gap between the closure of the community site in Burnley and the opening of the town's new facilities.

The walk-in stations will shut on Sunday 11th October.

People will need to book a slot at the new-style facilities, even if they previously had walk-in testing stations in their own areas.

Based on the rules in force at those locations where they have already opened, the new sites will accept only symptomatic people – bringing asymptomatic testing in the county to an end. The Local Democracy Reporting Service has sought confirmation of whether that is the case.

Lancashire’s regional drive-through testing centres at the Capitol Centre in Walton-le-Dale and the Royal Blackburn Hospital – will continue to operate unchanged. Both of these locations already operate by appointment only via the national system and are for people experiencing Covid symptoms.

It is understood that the mobile testing facilities, which have toured the county in recent months, stopping in set locations usually for a couple of days, will also continue.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s director of public health, said: “We’ve been informed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that we will not be able to order any more VTN test kits for delivery after 11th October.

“This means that our five community testing sites will cease by 11th October. These are located in the areas with additional measures.

“A big thank you to all volunteers and the 133 staff who were involved in a variety of roles. We have done almost 39,000 tests so far through the five community testing stations, which have supported the national testing programme in a range of weather conditions. The teams have dealt with the situation with good humour, flexibility and at short notice.

“We are now working with DHSC to establish alternative local testing stations throughout the county.”

Neil Jack, chair of the LRF’s Regional Co-ordination Group, said that the new sites “should make it easier for people to get tested by offering regular slots in local areas”.

“You will need to book, rather than just walk in, but this should also help to manage capacity much more.

“People are encouraged to get tested if they’re showing symptoms. It’s really important that we all work together to tackle the spread in Lancashire.

“And please stay at home if you’ve been told to, or you have been in close contact with someone who has Covid. You could be fined if you don’t self-isolate when you should be doing.

“We all want our lives to be more normal, and by stopping the spread we can all help each other and do this more quickly,” Mr. Jack added.

To book a test, visit www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119.