THE BIGGEST community testing operation in the country is under way in Leicester as the city continues to track down the coronavirus and stop its transmission.
At least 70,000 tests have been carried out in the city across all settings – not including care homes and workplaces – since 20 June, with drive-through, walk-in and pop-up testing centres now in place in local neighbourhoods. Thousands of those tests have been carried out in people’s homes, thanks to an army of volunteers who have been delivering self-testing kits to households in key areas of the city.
With most test results confirmed within 24 hours, those carrying the virus can be quickly identified and asked to self-isolate, and people they have been in close contact with can be traced and isolated too – preventing the virus from being passed on.
And although there’s still a long way to go, early signs are encouraging, with 1.9% of all tests taken in the week to 20 July returning a positive result, compared with a rate of 13.1% at the end of June.
Infection rates for the city show there were 157 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 26 June, but that rate had dropped to 74 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 18 July.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Testing is vitally important as it provides us with the information we need to track the virus – and the evidence we need to show that the infection rate is falling in Leicester.
“That’s why we’re helping to run the biggest testing operation in the country, mobilising around 500 volunteers to support door-to-door testing, particularly in areas of the city where positive test results have been higher.
“The scale of the operation is unprecedented, with testing in Leicester accounting for more than 10% of all the tests being carried out in the whole country.
“Working with our partners, we’re inviting people to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms, to help identify anyone who’s carrying the virus and passing it on, even though they’re asymptomatic themselves.
“If we offer you a test, I would urge you to take it – and of course anyone with symptoms should stay at home and book a test as quickly as possible.
“I’m pleased to say that the response we’ve had to the testing programme has been extremely positive, as no one wants to pass the virus on to members of their family and people recognise that increased testing is our route out of lockdown.
“We all want to eliminate this virus from our city – and the sooner we can prove that infection rates are falling, the sooner lockdown restrictions on Leicester will be lifted.”
Since 9 July, city council-led teams of volunteers have been delivering easy-to-use self-testing kits to homes in neighbourhoods across the city.
This activity has been running in parallel with door-to-door testing, primarily in north-east Leicester, where volunteers have been calling on people at home to offer them a free test, carried out by NHS staff in mobile testing units nearby.
Door-to-door testing is complementing the testing sites at Birstall Park & Ride, Evington Leisure Centre, Spinney Hill Park, Victoria Park, the Highfields Centre, the Shree Prajapati Community Centre, the Overton Road ball court and the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre. Tests at these facilities can be booked by calling 119.
Leicester’s director of public health Ivan Browne said a testing programme will continue in the city for as long as it’s needed during the pandemic.
“By searching out the virus and ensuring that those with it isolate and don’t pass it on to others, we will be able to bring the transmission rate down in Leicester,” he said.
“However, that doesn’t mean it will disappear completely, either here or in the rest of the country, so we must continue to be vigilant and follow the rules about hand hygiene and social distancing that will keep us all safe.”
The community testing programme is a joint initiative between the city council, the Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Groups, the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, local health teams and the national test and trace programme.
The city council has also set up its own tracing scheme to contact people who have tested positive for Covid-19, but who the national test and trace programme have been unable to reach.
During its first five days of operation, the council’s scheme has been able to contact 53 of the 61 cases referred to it (86.8 per cent) within 48 hours of referral. City council staff have contacted those individuals by phone or visited them at home to inform them that they need to self-isolate – and to gather information about the people they have been in close contact with. Details of those contacts are then passed back to Public Health England for tracing.
Anyone noticing the first signs of coronavirus – which could include a high temperature, a continuous cough or changes to their sense of taste or smell – must stay at home and arrange a test immediately.
Anyone who has been in contact with someone with symptoms should get themselves tested urgently too.
The test for coronavirus – which is free of charge – is a simple throat and nasal swab.
To book a test at a testing centre in Leicester, go to www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test or call 119.
Anyone testing positive must self-isolate at home for seven days, or until their symptoms have gone.
Anyone living in the same household as someone who tests positive must stay at home for 14 days to stop the virus from spreading.
Advice for everyone in Leicester remains as follows:
- Stay at home as much as possible
- Stay 2m apart from anyone outside of your household
- Wash your hands regularly
- Make essential journeys only
- Limit your contact with other people
- Wear a face mask on buses, in hospitals, in shops, and in any confined space
- Don’t meet up with people in their homes or in any indoor space
- Book a test as soon as symptoms appear at nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test
- No internet access? Call 119 to book your test
- If you test positive, stay at home for at least 7 days and until you feel better
- Members of your household should stay at home for 14 days