As the Government announced earlier this month, free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public will stop in England from 1 April.
In light of the new national approach, Solihull has now closed its two testing hubs and stopped its mobile testing service. Packs of lateral flow tests can be bought from recommended retailers and local pharmacies. Surplus packs of lateral flows have also been distributed to food banks and homeless accommodation to hand out for free while stocks last.
Testing for COVID has been a key part of our toolkit to break the chain of transmission, helping people to find out if they have COVID so they are able to self-isolate and protect people around them.
Since opening in January 2021 the hubs have delivered 40,830 onsite tests and handed out 68,930 boxes of home testing kits (data correct as of 14 March). Used by local residents and workers without COVID symptoms, the testing service has offered peace of mind that they’re not unknowingly passing the virus onto others. Staff have also talked to people about what do to if they have tested positive and engaged in helpful and open conversations to support people to get vaccinated.
The mobile testing van and teams have also provided a flexible local solution to make access to rapid COVID test as easy as possible and have supported outbreak testing in schools.
There will be limited ongoing free testing to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff. Details of this can be found in the Government’s next steps for living with COVID plan.
Individuals may still be required to take a COVID test before they travel abroad and should check foreign travel advice on the GOV.uk website here.
Ruth Tennant, Director of Public Health said:
“We now have much stronger protection against COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic. This is due to the success of the vaccination programme, natural immunity, access to antivirals, and an increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk.
“However, COVID can still be a serious illness and continues to cause disruption in workplaces and schools so if you do feel unwell, have COVID symptoms and a high temperature, it’s still important to say at home and avoid passing it to someone else. Vaccination has taken the edge off of COVID but if you haven’t been vaccinated or are due a booster, it’s important that you get this as soon as possible.
“Please visit https://www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/ to book an appointment at a vaccine centre or attend one of the walk-in clinics across Solihull and Birmingham.
“Those who have recently recovered from COVID should still come forward for their vaccination, as having had the virus does not give the same levels of protection.
“Anyone eligible for a fourth Spring booster dose should wait to be contacted by the NHS.”