Hundreds of people turned up to be tested for Covid-19 following a spike in cases in a city neighbourhood.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council set up a local testing station at Alexandra Infants School, in Normacot, which was open on Friday and Saturday.
It came in response to 18 confirmed coronavirus cases being recorded in the area since August 5, with six streets in particular seeing a rise in positive tests.
Around 120 people were tested at the school on Friday, while around 140 people were swabbed between 9am and 12pm on Saturday. With a queue still stretching outside the school grounds and along the street at midday – the time the centre was scheduled to close – a decision was made to extend the testing session until 2.30pm.
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, who is overseeing Stoke-on-Trent’s public health and social care response to coronavirus, said: “The response has been really good. We still had a queue at 12pm and people were still turning up, so we made the decision to extend it until 2.30pm to make sure we could get everybody through.
“Ideally everyone should receive their results within 48 hours, but we are asking them to allow 72. Everyone has been given tailored advice as they came through. Some people have been asymptomatic, some have had positive tests in their family group, so they have been advised that they should be isolating now.
“The response has been exactly what we wanted, so what we really want to emphasise now is, for the next week at least, we need people in this community to stay at home as much as they can, try to avoid going into other households, social distance, wash their hands regularly and wear a mask as much as they can – to try to nip this in the bud.”
The council has not named the six streets which have been affected by the recent spike, and it is not yet known if the recent cases are linked to a particular location. Contact tracers are in the process of looking for any common factors linking the cases, and leaflets are being posted to all the homes in the area.
Ward councillor Sadaqat Maqsoom got tested at the centre on Friday. He said: “It was very well-organised. You were guided all the way through.
“We tried to make sure as many people as possible knew about it and came to be tested. Letters were sent out in different languages and I posted a video on my Facebook page. It was good to see so many people turn up.
“We need to act on the advice we have been given – we need to avoid a local lockdown and this is the only way. I’ve spoken to a lot of residents and it is something they have had playing on their mind, whether their family is being put at risk. For many people getting tested will give them peace of mind.”
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We are investigating this increase in cases and we can’t tell yet whether this trend is set to continue, but what is clear is that we all need to work together to ensure it does not escalate.
“This means taking preventative action now to avoid the situation getting worse. We need to do this for the safety of the people of Stoke-on-Trent, our loved ones and also to ensure we don’t have to go into local lockdowns.
“We have moved quickly to set up a temporary testing facility.
“The new focus on contact tracing locally means we have much better data and earlier, than we have seen in other areas of the country recently. It means we are able to react really quickly when we see patterns or concentrations in cases.
“While we’ve seen a small increase in cases in Normacot, the situation is escalating across the city. In the last week, we have seen a rise in case numbers in Stoke-on-Trent with 38 new cases across the city.
“This has resulted in a rate of 14.8 per 100,000. It is not just isolated to one community or culture so it’s important for everyone to take heed and take action.”
Figures from Public Health England have shown an increase in Covid-19 cases across Stoke-on-Trent as a whole over the past two weeks. There were 48 new cases recorded between August 3 and August 10 – compared to just 14 over the previous eight-day period.
Residents can also book a test at the local testing centre, less than three miles away at the bet365 Stadium, via www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
Drop a heart on our special map of gratitude to show your support for our NHS heroes https://www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk/