Plans are swiftly being finalised by Sefton Council as part of the national drive to detect and contain the new South African variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The South African coronavirus variant has been identified in a number of locations across the country including in Sefton’s Southport area.
There is nothing to suggest the vaccines that are now being rolled out won’t work against the variant but there are concerns that it is more transmissible, meaning it could be spread more easily and quickly.
Details of where a Mobile Testing Unit, due to be open from Wednesday 3rd February, can be sited are being finalised and a team of people to knock on doors to provide and collect home testing kits for local residents is being mobilised. The Council has been told supplies of test kits are due to be delivered later today and aims to start delivering them to people’s homes tomorrow.
Sefton Council is also working with the DHSC on a range of targeted local publicity and information including posters, local radio and social media. This will include details of exactly what they can expect when someone calls with a test as well as information and advice on self-isolation.
Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said:
“Finding cases of the new South African COVID-19 variant and reducing the number of people who could be exposed to it is vital, which is why we are focusing testing facilities on the area and trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get tested.
“Anyone over 16 within the area can go along and get tested without an appointment and I would urge them to do so as soon as possible so we can nip any spread of the new variant in the bud.”
Advice and support for people who do test positive with any strain of the COVID-19 virus will be provided on the ground and online at www.sefton.gov.uk/self-isolation.
Mrs Jones repeated her reminder that whether they are in the identified area or not, people across Sefton should continue strictly following the national regulations to protect themselves and others. This means staying at home except for essential purposes such as shopping for essential supplies, going to work if we can’t do so from home and providing care.
She also stressed the importance of people across the Borough maintaining at least 2-metres’ distancing, wearing a mask or face covering while out and about and washing their hands frequently.
People outside of the area identified for the South African variant testing who develop coronavirus symptoms of a high temperature, persistent new cough or loss of their sense of taste or smell, should book a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.
Mobile Test Units have been operating in Sefton since April. Units are scheduled at locations across the Borough through February.
There are also walk-through test sites at Bootle Town Hall, Crosby Library Car Park, Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall. Open every day from 8am to 8pm, providing easy access to COVID-19 tests for people who do not have access to a car and for those who have symptoms and should not travel by public transport.
Key workers and people with caring commitments during the lockdown should go regularly for SMART tests, which tell people if they are carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing in as little as 30 minutes.
Open from 8am to 8pm to make it easier for working people to attend them, the walk-through SMART testing sites are at Bootle Leisure Centre, Splash World in Southport and Aintree Racecourse. No appointments are needed.
Support and advice, including information on financial support, is available at www.sefton.gov.uk/self-isolation for anyone who is required to isolate because they have tested positive for COVID-19.