Arcade businesses stunned to see Coronavirus test site open next door

Shop, bar and restaurant owners have reacted with shock over reports that the walk-in Coronavirus test centre will be on their doorstep.

It was announced this week that a walk-in test centre for those who may have COVID-19 would be opened up at Southport town hall.

However, businesses in Cambridge Arcade now say the testing site is just yards from their shops at the council tax centre next to the former BHS building.

Daniel Gilbert, owner of Ebb & Flow Tattoo Parlour said “I am writing in utter disbelief, quite frankly, at the plan to turn the Sefton Council One-Stop Shop in to a Covid-19 test centre.

“This might be the most poorly conceived, inept plan imaginable in terms of public health and the safety of Southport’s residents, not to mention the inevitable impact on the many small local independent businesses who occupy the Cambridge Arcade and the adjoining Cambridge Walks.

“The arcade is a just under 3m wide and is enclosed under a roof, and the arcade already includes outdoor seating areas for The Hungry Monk, The Tap & Bottles, and Le Boulevard bistro.

“Therefore, it will be literally impossible for those arriving to be tested, who one can assume will be symptomatic, to be the appropriate 2m distance from the customers of those businesses. On top of this, there will still need to be space for pedestrians and shoppers to safely pass through the arcade between the seating areas and the Covid test centre.”

While the testing station will be in a Council property, the decision on location for these test centres is made by The Department of Health & Social Care and its private sector contractors rather than Sefton Council.

A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “We understand the concerns of local businesses regarding the provision of a local test centre at the One Stop Shop in Southport.

“Local testing centres are part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to improve accessibility of coronavirus testing for communities.

“The provision of sites is approved by the Department of Health and Social Care and their private sector providers are the decision-makers on the suitability of final location and set-up (including entrances and exits) following a site visit. The site will then be run by a private sector operator.

“The site will be prepared on Tuesday (4th August) and open on Wednesday (5th August) with more appointments available each day. Testing is available for everyone, with additional support for vulnerable groups and people with disabilities.

“It is important that the site is easily accessible without a car. Those being tested will be required to follow public health measures, including social distancing, not travelling by taxi or public transport, practising good personal hygiene and wearing a face covering throughout (including travelling to and from the testing centre). Anyone attending an appointment at a walk-through testing will be provided with guidance on getting to and from the test site safely.

“We would assure neighbouring businesses that attendance at the test site is by appointment only and therefore there should be no queuing within Cambridge Arcade. Queue management is part of the site operators’ responsibility and whilst the appointment system should ensure there is no queue, we will monitor this.”