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New UK government Covid testing site opens in Wick

By David G Scott

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The UK government opened a new walk-through coronavirus testing centre at the riverside car park in Wick on Thursday.

The centre, which is easily accessible for people without a car, is described as "part of the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities created in British history".

Pam Dudek, NHS Highland's chief executive, said: "This new facility will make it even easier for people in Caithness to get a test. I want to thank all of the staff for their hard work in ensuring the service is up and running and I would encourage anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 to book a test immediately."

Local health campaigner Bill Fernie, chairman of Caithness Health Action Team (Chat), said he welcomed the fact that the NHS is "moving forward to help the community" despite the immense pressures it faces through the pandemic.

A new walk-through coronavirus testing centre opened today at the riverside car park in Wick.Picture: DGS
A new walk-through coronavirus testing centre opened today at the riverside car park in Wick.Picture: DGS

Mr Fernie said: "Listening today to the special council meeting, you can see that there is pressure in all the public bodies. Even the police admit they have people off in quarantine or sick."

In Scotland, the UK government is providing all Covid testing and test processing outside of the NHS and around two-thirds of all daily tests are provided by it in support of Scotland’s health services.

Throughout the country there are six drive-through sites, 23 walk-through sites, 23 mobile units, plus the Glasgow Lighthouse Lab which is working round the clock to process samples.

Simon Venn, Mitie chief government and strategy officer, said: “Our priority during the pandemic is to support the nation’s efforts to fight Covid-19 and help keep the country running. Testing is a critical part of the UK’s strategy to combat coronavirus and we’re proud to support the UK government with this vital task. A big thank you to all the NHS staff, Mitie employees and other frontline heroes in Wick, who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe.”

UK government minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart, said: “The UK government continues to provide the bulk of testing in Scotland, with this new walk-through centre in Wick just the latest in our extensive network. We have also secured and paid for millions of doses of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines for all parts of the UK."

The minister added that "hope is on the horizon" but it was important not to let up on efforts to contain the virus.

Another view of the Covid testing facility as it was being set up on Tuesday.Picture: DGS
Another view of the Covid testing facility as it was being set up on Tuesday.Picture: DGS

Also commenting on the launch of the Wick facility, minister for public health, sport and wellbeing Mairi Gougeon said: “Containing and suppressing this virus relies on testing being accessible to everyone. The walk-through testing centre in Wick is the 23rd site across Scotland and will further increase our testing capacity ahead of potential spikes as we move through winter.

“Centres like this can be operational in a matter of days, and we are working at pace with NHS National Services Scotland and local authorities to roll out more across the country so that more people have access to local testing.

“We will continue to adapt our testing strategy in line with the different stages of the pandemic. However, testing is only one effective intervention that we are using to manage the virus and it remains vital that people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene not just for their own safety but in order to protect others.”

Further information for those seeking a test:

  • Tests must be booked in advance at: www.nhsinform.scot/test-and-protect or by calling 0800 028 2816.
  • People should only book at test if they have coronavirus symptoms –high temperature, a new and continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste –or have been told to seek a test by a clinician or an NHS tracer.
  • People travelling to and from the test centre must NOT use taxis or public transport.
  • People should wear a face covering while travelling to and from the test centre and while in the centre.
  • Tests in this centre are self-administered. This involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat. The process is simple, only takes a few minutes, and full instructions are provided. Staff are on hand to provide additional support for vulnerable people and those with disabilities.
  • The centre will operate seven days a week, with appointments available from 8am to 8pm.

Anyone testing positive will be contacted by NHS Scotland tracers. They will help them identify those they have been in contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from contact tracers, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus.

They will be advised to also book at test if they develop symptoms.

Patients hospitalised with Covid-19 now at same numbers as experienced in coronavirus pandemic's first wave, Scottish Government First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned

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