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10 September 2020

7000 tested, as local system reacts to increased demand

As pupils return to school and more people return to the workplace, demand for COVID-19 testing is increasing rapidly.

In the week to 4 September almost 7000 people were tested in Cumbria, but some have reported they have been unable to book a test at a local test centre, with a minority being advised to travel long distances to access testing.  

The county’s Public Health team, along with local and national partners, are working to increase both the number of public test centres and the overall number of tests available each day.

But people are also being reminded only to get tested if they have the specific COVID-19 symptoms - high temperature, new persistent cough, loss of sense of taste or smell - to reduce demand and ensure tests are available for those that need them.

Currently testing for the general public is available from the following locations:

  • Walk-through coronavirus testing facility at the Castle Car Park, Devonshire Walk, in Carlisle is open 8am to 8pm every day.
  • Drive-through coronavirus testing facility at Carlisle Lake District Airport.
  • Mobile testing units available on different dates in the following towns: Barrow, Carlisle, Egremont, Haverigg, Kendal, Keswick, Kirkby Stephen and Lillyhall.

Full details of all local testing, including dates for mobile testing units, can be found at https://www.northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/covidtesting and appointments can be booked at all sites via the national testing website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing-and-tracing/get-a-test-to-check-if-you-have-coronavirus/

People are being advised to try the booking website at different times of the day if they are unable to secure an appointment on first attempt.

Appointments cannot be booked via GP practices or local hospitals.

The planned location of mobile testing units is amended if necessary based on local demand. This week two testing units have been allocated to Barrow on Wednesday and Thursday, rather than Carlisle as had been planned, to help meet an increase in demand in the town. 

Specifically to support the safe opening of schools, agreement has been reached with the local NHS to make additional testing available for school pupils if required. This testing cannot be used by the general public and is only available to school pupils with symptoms if their parents have been unable to book a test via the national website. Parents should not contact their local hospital but approach their child’s school who will progress a referral through their established routes.

In addition, work is underway to secure additional fixed facilities in Cumbria’s main towns.

Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said:

“While testing capacity is increasing it hasn’t yet caught up with the big increase in demand caused by pupils going back to school and people heading back to the workplace. That’s why it’s really important that testing capacity isn’t taken up by people that don’t need to be tested.

“As we head into autumn colds, sore throats and runny noses will all become more common, but they are not a reason to get a COVID-19 test. People need to look out for one or more of the key symptoms - high temperature, new persistent cough or loss of sense of taste or smell - and only then get tested, or if advised to by a health professional.

 “Nationally we are seeing a steady increase in the number of new cases each day. Some of that was to be expected as society opened back up again, but people must continue to follow the guidance to keep the infection rate at a manageable level.”

The key public health messages remain:

  • Wash or sanitise hands regularly
  • Observe social distancing rules
  • Wear face masks or coverings in enclosed public spaces, including taxis
  • If you have symptoms, self-isolate and get tested
  • Follow advice to self-isolate if asked  

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As pupils return to school and more people return to the workplace, demand for COVID-19 testing is increasing rapidly.