A drive-through coronavirus testing centre will be up-and-running at the bet365 Stadiumn this week – and anyone with symptoms can book a slot.
The government finally agreed to upgrade Stoke-on-Trent’s facility so that North Staffordshire residents no longer have to travel miles to get checked.
It means anyone experiencing a new and continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of or change in their normal sense of smell or taste, can book an appointment on the NHS website.
Essential workers – such as those employed in warehouses across North Staffordshire – can also book a test on the GOV.UK self-referral portal.
Tests will start on Friday (May 29) with the facility being piloted for its first few days of operation.
It is being run in partnership with Sodexo and will offer assisted and self-administered tests with the results delivered within a few days.
The change comes after the the Department of Health and Social Care switched the bet365 site from a ‘satellite’ to a ‘regional’ testing centre following weeks of lobbying by community leaders, local MPs and StokeonTrentLive.
Sean Haley, regional chair of Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “Sodexo teams have moved quickly to set up COVID-19 testing centres as part of the industry-wide effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The bet365 Stadium site becoming a regional testing centre will mean more frontline NHS and other staff can be tested and cleared to provide care to those who need it most.
“I am proud of our colleagues who are working together with pace and dedication to support the NHS.”
Professor John Newton, national coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as the bet365 one are a key pillar of our five-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting essential workers who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.
“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale.”
The bet365 site had been underused for weeks with North Staffordshire residents being directed to the nearest regional centre at Manchester Airport – an 80-mile round trip – or even further afield.
There are now 52 regional test centres and 116 mobile testing units operated by the Armed Forces.
The government has also introduced home testing kits and three Lighthouse laboratories.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “The Government continues to rapidly scale up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.
“This is a national effort and we are proud to be working with a number of partners to turn this ambition into a reality and roll out additional capacity to where it is needed.”
A Boots UK spokesman said: “Some of our colleagues have already stepped forward to volunteer to run this COVID-19 testing station, which will start testing essential workers and people with symptoms of coronavirus on Friday.”
Who can ask for a test
You can ask for a test:
- for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- for someone you live with, if they have coronavirus symptoms
This service is for people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The tests are not suitable for children under five years old.
If you’re asking for a test for someone else and the person is aged 13 or over, check they’re happy for you to ask for a test for them.
When to ask for a test
You need to have the test in the first five days of having symptoms.
It’s best to ask for the test in the first three days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.
What the test involves
The test usually involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud.
You can do the swab yourself or someone can do it for you.
Will I get a test?
There is very high demand for tests at the moment.
People in hospital and essential workers, including NHS and social care staff, are getting priority.
Even if you are successful in requesting a test, we cannot guarantee you will get one. It depends on how many tests are available each day in different parts of the country.
How do I ask for a test?
You can ask for a test online here.
We’ll ask you:
- how you want to get the test – you may be able to choose between driving to a regional testing site or getting a home test kit
- for details such as your name, mobile phone number and address
- are an essential worker, including NHS or social care staff
- are applying for tests for the residents and staff of your care home
- have a verification code from your employer
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