STOCKTON TESTING: Centres will be open until the end of June at the earliest
A TRIO of testing centres for people without covid symptoms will be in operation until June at the earliest as rates continue to fall across Teesside.
Hubs at Billingham Forum, Thornaby Pavilion and Stockton Splash will be manned until June at the latest as lockdown restrictions are forecast to ease.
The confirmation came at Wednesday’s Stockton health and wellbeing board as virus rates continue to show a fall in the borough (February 24).
Cllr Jim Beall said the latest outbreak had seen the biggest impact.
The cabinet member for culture, leisure and health added: “Community testing will be extended to June – what was originally there for six weeks will be there until at least June.
“That needs to be resourced as well and that’s a challenge.”
The three centres were launched for people without covid symptoms last month using quick turnaround lateral flow tests.
Officials also launched a recruitment drive for 25 more temporary workers to support contract tracing, testing and the wider roll out of the vaccination programme in the borough over the next six months, with applications now closed.
After the meeting, council leader Cllr Bob Cook said chiefs had been told about the extension of testing in a meeting with the Ministry of Local Government and the Department of Health.
Cllr Cook added: “It was originally up to March 31 but we were told they want to extend them for a few months.
“Even though vaccinations are moving forward quite quickly, it will still be quite a while before they all get done.
“It’s not just the first vaccination – people need the second one to be really sure they work.
“The testing stations will be around for about three months after that March deadline.
“We think we’ll be involved in the vaccination effort.
“What we really need is some temporary positions because we’re running out of our own staff.”
Fairfield Pharmacy has been issuing jabs in the borough – and a new mass vaccination centre is set to open in neighbouring Darlington next week at the town’s arena.
The health panel was also told how the borough’s rates were falling after a short debate on which figures were used where.
The committee was told the council’s weekly figures were “scrubbed” to ensure accuracy.
And the authority dashboard showed the rolling seven day rate stood at 175.8 cases per 100,000 on Wednesday – with 10 deaths in the borough in the past week.
Sarah Bowman-Abouna, director of public health, said cases were now dropping quite slowly.
She added: “It’s really positive news but we’re still not out of the woods so we need to collectively work to push the rate down as much as we possibly can.”
For more information on the covid support jobs. go to: www.stockton.gov.uk/COVIDSupportTeam
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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