This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Petersfield Post and Herald editions:
"A month ago today, I had the chance for a preview of what was then soon-to-be Hampshire's newest Covid testing site, at the new sports centre in Alton.
The number of local people who had volunteered to help was impressive. The EHDC officers organising things gave a helpful brief, complementing the NHS's excellent online training for volunteers.
The facility at Alton formed part of a major ramp-up of asymptomatic testing capacity. It is a key support to the 'roadmap' that sees our way back, in stages, to normality.
Testing helps identify more positive cases of Covid-19 so those infected know to isolate. This is crucial given that around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus without displaying any symptoms.
Whilst the message was still to work from home where possible, of course many cannot. Asymptomatic testing is aimed especially at people who have been unable to work from home during national lockdown.
Just as with the vaccination programme, there are different sizes and types of testing facilities.
East Hampshire’s testing site currently at Alton sports centre is a ‘community’ site, designed to provide a local facility for people to access asymptomatic testing, and is separate to the existing local and regional facilities for people to use if they have Covid-19 symptoms.
Testing is now the new normal for staff and pupils returning to school. Self-test kits have been provided to staff at both primary and secondary schools and colleges, as well as pupils at secondary schools.
After 3 initial tests done at school, secondary school and college pupils are from this week being given kits to do twice-weekly tests at home, and household members are also encouraged to take tests, including those in childcare and support bubbles.
Free test kits can be collected from Regional Testing Sites (RTS), including sites in Farnham, Guildford, Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester. They can be collected in the afternoon, without an appointment, as the sites remain open in the morning for appointment-only testing for those with Covid-19 symptoms and are deep cleaned before reopening in the afternoon.
Open daily, you can search online for the nearest RTS, or you can pick up from Local Testing Sites (LTS), including sites in Fareham and Havant. There is of course the option to also order home testing kits.
The expansion of the testing programme now means all businesses can access workplace testing and are encouraged to register their interest by the 31st March, even if they’re not yet open.
Businesses of any size, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can sign up and more than 48,000 businesses have already registered interest, with 9,000 having completed the sign-up process.
So, the infrastructure and capacity is in place to support the scale of testing that we know will form a critical part of everyday life as restrictions are eased, just as it is already for millions of people across the NHS and care homes.
And of course the testing system will only be effective if the tracing programme also delivers.
Within Hampshire, there is also a Local Tracing Partnership to support the national system. If necessary, you will receive a text alert telling you to expect a call, and then receive a phone call from 01962 826982.
And the whole Test and Trace system then relies on people taking the appropriate steps to self-isolate.
We all hope it won’t be us that receives that message or call, but we know that our actions have ramifications for ourselves, our families and friends, our work colleagues, as well as the wider community."
Relevant links to information in this article are available HERE