The Wokingham Paper

Wokingham council proposing to buy Covid-19 tests for its keyworkers

Cllr Lindsay Ferris says he has supported the Council on purchasing Covid tests, but has concerns about debt in WBC

“WE ARE preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.” 

That’s the message from the executive member for health and wellbeing on Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Charles Margetts. 

He says that the council is doing everything it can to prepare for the second wave of the coronavirus, and is planning to order privately sourced Covid-19 tests for the borough’s keyworkers if a plan is passed by the council’s executive on Thursday night. 

The move comes after the government-backed system runs into problems, with people struggling to book tests or being asked to travel to the other end of the country to receive one. 

It is anticipated that the tests will be ready to be used from early October. 

The private testing facility is just one of a number of measures that the council is currently preparing ahead of any second wave of the coronavirus within Wokingham borough. However, compared to other parts of the country, the number of cases is still low. 

Earlier this week, Wokingham Borough Council said that it had been lobbying the government for adequate local testing facilities, and it was asking residents to help by calling 111 if they felt they had Covid symptoms. 

The council added that priority is being given to areas where there are more Covid cases, so Wokingham borough, with a lower number of reported cases, has less capacity. 

While the government has argued that an increase in demand is being caused by people asking for a test when they don’t need one, there are also concerns that we are heading for a second wave.

In a statement, Meradin Peachey, acting director of Public Health Berkshire, said: “We understand that there are national constraints in the processing of test results which is limiting the availability of tests locally. 

“The testing system is prioritising areas of the country where there are higher levels of Covid infections.

“Berkshire has lower case numbers than elsewhere in the country and in the last week over 97% tests on Berkshire residents were negative.”  

At a virtual council meeting, held on Thursday, September 17, Cllr Charles Margetts told the chamber: “Wokingham is a very low-risk area for Covid and everyone is working very hard to keep it that way. 

“The NHS Track and Trace app will be live on September 24, there have been months of work to get this ready. We’ve looked at the other apps on the market and I’m convinced that this is by far the best one, I’d encourage all members, residents and local businesses to adopt it. It’s a key part of how we fight Covid.”

He added that the response to Covid in the Wokingham borough community will be changing and “what we call community response part two” will be launching soon. This has an emphasis on mental health, aimed at helping people who are at home, facing loneliness or “too scared to come out and need support”. 

On testing, he said that that national shortage of lab capacity is “very concerning”. 

The council has been meeting with MPs to raise issues with the health minister. 

“Today central government can’t provide enough testing. We’ve secured extra testing for key workers. We’re in the process of procuring further private testing, (so) we have provision for possible emergencies that may come down the road.

“We’re trying to be proactive, positive and do everything we can to keep our residents safe.”

Speaking to Wokingham.Today after the meeting, Cllr Margetts said that the council was bringing a proposal to a special executive committee meeting which will be held online on Thursday, September 24. 

“There are obviously well-known problems with testing, which we’re extremely cross about,” he said. “We have made the decision to buy testing, and reserve capacity for swab tests.

“Assuming the executive approve this purchase on Thursday, they will be available by early October.”

And he said that by taking this action, it ensures that the council’s keyworkers, such as adult services, social workers, educational staff, can receive Covid-19 tests if needed. 

“If there is another outbreak, people can get access to testing quickly,” Cllr Margetts said. 

When to seek a coronavirus test 

Source: Wokingham Borough Council

If you have any symptoms of Covid, you should isolate and seek a test by phoning 119 or booking online.  

The symptoms to look out for are fever, a continuous cough and loss of taste or smell. 

If you do not have symptoms you do not need a test unless you are part of a group of health and care workers who receive regular testing. 

If you have been identified as a contact of a case then you should isolate for 14 days. 

This period covers the incubation and infectious periods of the infection.  

You do not need a test unless you have symptoms but if you do have a test and it comes back negative, you still need to isolate for the whole period.  

The same applies if you are isolating having returned from overseas.

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