Health chiefs prepared for surge testing if more Covid Indian cases found in Northamptonshire

Volunteers on stand-by to go door-to-door in Towcester after success of Corby pilot

By Kevin Nicholls
Monday, 17th May 2021, 9:29 am
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 10:37 am

Health chiefs are confident surge testing can be rolled out at a moment's notice if more cases of the Covid-19 Indian variants are found in Northamptonshire.

Officials are waiting on results from a batch of PCR swabs taken at Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School in Towcester on Thursday and Friday after six cases of variants of concern were confirmed.

Any positive tests will then go for further examination to see if they are the highly-transmissable B1.617.2 strain.

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Public Health Northamptonshire says the “targeted testing” is a precautionary measure and surge testing is not currently required based on the current low number of variant cases.

PHN carried out a successful door-to-door testing exercise in Corby last month — similar to that being carried out in Bolton and Blackburn over the weekend — using a team of volunteers to deliver testing kits to more than 9,000 people.

County public health director Lucy Wightman said: “The pilot provided us with a key opportunity to test system surge capacity plans which is a key part of the public health response to spikes in cases, or variants of concern, should they arise.

"The pilot confirmed we have a really good plan in place should there be a need for surge testing, which is vitally important.”

Volunteers delivered 9,000 test kits during last month's successful surge testing exercise in Corby

Officials say there is currently no evidence that the Indian variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of mortality.

But they are urging locals to be cautious and not mix with others outside their own household or childcare bubble unless absolutely necessary and to take up the opportunity of free lateral flow tests, which can identify anyone carrying the virus even when they have no symptoms.

Mrs Wightman added: "This outbreak reminds us that the virus is still out there - it's our job to limit transmission wherever possible and the main route of that in Northamptonshire continues to be through household mixing.

“Although restrictions are easing, it is imperative that we continue to abide by the guidelines and follow the rules. Remember ‘Hands. Face. Space. Fresh air’

Volunteers went door-to-door delivering test kits during the exercise

“Please also take up the offer of free rapid twice weekly testing so that we can stop the spread of the virus.

"There are a variety of ways in which you can access rapid testing — although of course if you have symptoms you should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test through the Test and Trace app, online or by calling 119."

■ Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms — a new continuous cough, loss of or change in sense of taste or a high temperature should self-isolate immediately and book a test online HERE, via the Test and Trace app or by calling 119.

■ Free lateral flow device tests are available at sites across the county — click HERE for more details — or kits can be ordered and collected for home use.