A coronavirus testing station will reopen in Normacot tomorrow as public health officials continue their efforts to bring the surge in cases under control.
Two mosques in the area – Gillani Noor Masjid Mosque and the Al Hafiz Academy Mosque – have agreed to voluntarily close for 14 days, while businesses in the area are also being advised to impose stricter limits on the number of customers they allow in their premises.
And residents in Normacot are being told to stay within their household bubbles to prevent the virus spreading further.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the NHS opened the walk-in testing station at Alexandra Infants School on Friday and Saturday last week after 18 cases were confirmed over a 10-day period.
This testing detected 11 more cases, with further postive tests at the bet365 Stadium regional facility bringing the total to 45 cases in Normacot between August 5 and 16.
The walk-in testing station will be open at Alexandra Infants School again, between 10am and 3pm on Thursday.
Anyone in Normacot who does not currently have coronavirus symptoms and has not yet been tested is strongly urged to visit the testing station tomorrow – no booking is required . Anyone who does have symptoms should book a test at the bet365 Stadium.
Over the seven-day period up to August 16 there were 55 cases across the city, including 35 in the Normacot area – this continues the upward trend seen since July.
Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of social care, health integration and wellbeing at the city council, said: “We are seeing ongoing cases. There have now been 45 in Normacot, including 35 in the last seven days. These cases have been limited to 16 distinct postcodes, so this has been household transmission.
“It’s a different situation to the one seen in Stone, where the cases were linked to a pub. In Normacot it’s a case of one person getting the virus and then passing it to other people in their household.
“There is a small amount of spread between households, and that’s what we want to prevent. So we’re asking people to stay within their own household bubbles and avoid leaving their home whenever possible. That is the most important thing people need to do, along with the existing guidance on washing hands, face coverings and keeping at least two metres apart.
“The mosques came to us and volunteered to close for 14 days, which is brilliant and will help contain the outbreak.”
While nearly 400 people responded to the initial local testing programme, Mr Edmondson-Jones believes there could be another 200 people in the area who have yet to get tested.
It is not yet known whether the surge in cases in Normacot, and the rising infection rate across the city as a whole, will result in the sort of government intervention which has been seen in other parts of England.
Mr Edmondson-Jones added: “Over the last few weeks we’ve gone from 10 cases, to 20, to 40 and now 55, so we are seeing an increase in cases. I don’t know whether we will be on the government’s next watchlist. Hopefully we won’t become an area of concern.
“The government won’t just look at the number of cases. They’ll look at things like hospital admissions, which is still around zero in Stoke-on-Trent, and whether there are multiple outbreaks, which isn’t the case here.”
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We’re continuing to monitor test results and the number of positive cases extremely closely. We had seen the total number of cases in the city plateau at around 40 per seven-days, but this has now increased again.
“We have taken the sensible and considered precaution to reopen the temporary testing centre in Normacot that worked so well last weekend, to give every opportunity for people in this area to be tested. We want people who have not been showing symptoms of the virus and who didn’t go for testing last Friday and Saturday to attend. Residents who have symptoms and haven’t been tested must stay at home and book on to the regional testing centre at the bet365 Stadium.
“The response from the community has been incredibly responsible so far, and we are urging anyone who has yet to be tested in this small geographical area to get the test. Those who were tested last weekend have been self-isolating and will continue to do so until tonight (Wednesday) and people who have been tested should be told their results, whether they tested positive or negative.
“What we know from patterns in the data so far is that a number of cases are concentrated in a number of households and in a number of streets. We are asking that people do not move household-to-household in the area at this time. We want as many people as possible to stay at home, and stay in their own household bubble. This is not a local lockdown, and if people continue to treat this in the serious and responsible way that they have been doing, it will allow us to do all we can to trace and contain the spread of the virus.
“We are taking a number of preventative measures in the area, and advising corner shops and takeaways to limit the number of customers at any one time. We are speaking to taxi drivers to make sure that they get a test. We have been working with the local Gillani Noor Masjid Mosque and the Al Hafiz Academy Mosque and both have taken the decision to voluntarily close the mosques to members of the public for the next 14 days from today.
“Our message is: please stay at home, do not gather outside of your household bubble and look after your family and friends. We need people to follow this advice for the next 10 days. These measures are precautions that people must follow if we are to beat this virus.”
Residents can book a coronavirus test at the local testing centre at the bet365 Stadium. It is located in Stanley Matthews Way, Trentham Lakes, ST4 4EG. Bookings can be made via www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, or ringing 119, where help is available in other languages.