This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Petersfield Post and Herald editions:
"The Prime Minister’s recent announcement on the universal testing offer means everyone can now get tested regularly, twice a week. It’s a process most people get used to, and results come back quickly.
The expansion of the testing programme is particularly important given that around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it.
Even for people who have already been vaccinated, this ‘Test-Record-Repeat’ routine will help to keep workplaces and communities safe and is one of the important tools to help us move back closer to normality. We know that regular testing is critical in breaking the chains of transmission.
With case numbers continuing to fall in Hampshire and nationally, this is the time to remain vigilant. No one wants to risk the progress that has been made, after all the sacrifices, and the precious lives lost.
With low case numbers the NHS Test and Trace system is able to work most effectively; allowing outbreaks to be pinpointed quickly and for surge testing to be deployed at speed.
And getting hold of a rapid test is now quick and convenient. In addition to the home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home, there are workplace testing programmes as well as community testing offered by local authorities.
Details on the community testing sites across Hampshire are available via the Hampshire County Council website (there are links also on damianhinds.com). You can book a test in advance, but there is also a walk-in option.
The temporary community testing site at the Alton Sports Centre has now made way for the reopening of the leisure centre. But there are now local collection points at the Alton Information Office in Cross and Pillory Lane, Alton, the Eco Station (old fire station) on Camp Road, Bordon, and from the Petersfield Cottage in Penns Place, Petersfield.
Test kits can also be collected from local PCR test sites (during specific time windows) and soon also from many pharmacies. After a successful pilot, the Pharmacy Collect system is being rolled out to 200 sites across Hampshire in the next few weeks.
People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating site and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use at home. This allows someone to test themselves twice weekly in a 3-week timeframe, with an extra included in case of a void test.
Of course, registering the test results (including negatives) is critical and people can do this online or by calling 119. If positive, individuals should self-isolate and order a PCR test to confirm the result.
Confirming the result with a follow-up PCR test also means that Variants of Concern can be detected more quickly, which is of course important given the news from India this week.
It is important to remember that anyone with symptoms should book a test online or by calling 119. Test sites are open in the morning for symptomatic testing, before closing at 1.30pm for a deep clean before offering collection services to people without symptoms in the afternoon.
The principal Regional Testing site is at Southampton Airport, with Local Testing sites in Havant, Basingstoke, Fareham, Gosport and Winchester among others.
Testing is likely to be part of our community protection for some time yet, alongside and complementing the vaccination programme. If it helps keep local businesses open and social contact going, it is an effort worth making."