Community testing crucial for roadmap milestone

Residents in Oxfordshire are being reminded of the range of symptom-free testing options available to them as we enter the next phase of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Oxfordshire County Council has worked closely with district and city councils, and other partners, to expand its symptom-free testing scheme. This includes: an additional site opening to serve the west of the county; all symptom-free sites offering twice-weekly testing; and the option of ‘community collect’ of lateral flow device (LFD) tests for those eligible from all local sites.

Anyone showing any COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate immediately (along with their household) and book a PCR test through one of five symptomatic testing sites throughout the county. They must not attend a symptom-free site.

Today, restrictions have eased slightly with the ‘stay at home’ rule lifted and people now able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six or two households. With Easter holidays on the horizon, Oxfordshire’s Director of Public Health, Ansaf Azhar, is urging people to both stick to the new rules and to take part in symptom-free testing to help stop the spread of the virus.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Today marks the start of the gradual easing of restrictions to take us out of lockdown. This is great news but we must remain vigilant. To accompany the roadmap changes, we need to simply follow the rules – as well as keep our distance, wash our hands, wear a mask – and crucially, take part in any symptom-free testing programme we all can.

“To make this easier for people, we have expanded our symptom-free testing scheme. These tests have done a great job so far in helping us to identify the one in three people who have COVID but display no symptoms. Identifying infectious individuals early, isolating them, and tracing their contacts can reduce transmission of the virus significantly.

“We know that everybody is yearning to get their lives back to some sense of normality as soon as possible, and this is just one way that will help us along the way.”

Symptom-free testing for public-facing workers, volunteers and childminders

Symptom-free testing is available twice-weekly for public-facing workers, volunteers and childminders who cannot access a test through their workplace. It is available at four sites across the county:

  • Spiceball Leisure Centre in Banbury (OX16 2BW): 7am - 7pm (Mon - Fri); 8.30am - 12.30pm (Sat)
  • The Beacon in Wantage (OX12 9BX): 8.30am - 7pm (Mon - Fri); 8.30am - 12.30pm (Sat)
  • King’s Centre in Oxford (OX2 0ES): 8.30am - 7pm (Mon - Fri); 8.30am - 12.30pm (Sat)
  • Brownes Hall in Carterton (OX18 3JH): 8.30am - 7pm (Mon - Fri); 8.30am - 12.30pm (Sat)

Booking is required on the county council’s website.

The test used is a rapid lateral flow device (LFD) and involves taking a swab of the back of the throat and inside of the nose. The swab is given to trained staff at the test centre who process the test on-site. Residents will receive results within an hour by text message or by email. If the result is positive, people must self-isolate and follow the national guidance.

Symptom-free testing at home and community collect for parents and carers

To support the return to school that began on 8 March, all households with nursery, primary, secondary and college-aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles, can access the ‘community collect’ of lateral flow tests. These tests are undertaken at home and those eligible are encouraged to test twice a week.

Tests are now available for adults in these households to collect from any local testing site across Oxfordshire – symptomatic sites 2.30pm - 8pm and symptom-free sites during their opening hours. Residents do not need to make an appointment to collect tests, but they can check online if the location is open or busy before they go.

For those who cannot get to a site, they can order online, where tests will be delivered to their home.

The symptomatic test sites are where people go to get tested – using PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests when they have symptoms of COVID-19 – and because of that, collection of these home test kits is set for when testing of symptomatic people will not be taking place.

The symptomatic PCR local testing sites offering community collect in Oxfordshire include:

Regional testing site (drive-through)

  • Oxford Parkway, Water Eaton Park & Ride, Oxford Road, Oxford (OX2 8HA)

Local testing sites (walk-through)

  • Woodgreen Leisure Centre, Woodgreen Avenue, Banbury (OX16 0HS)
  • Osney Lane, Oxford (OX1 1NY)
  • Woodford Way car park, Witney (OX28 6JS)
  • Fuller Building Restaurant, Oxford Brookes University, Headington (OX3 0BP)

For those using lateral flow tests at home, the sample is collected using a swab and needs to be tested following the instructions provided. The result is confirmed in 30 minutes and needs to be reported to the NHS on gov.uk. Once a home test is completed, the kit should be placed into the bag provided and disposed of with general household waste.

A secondary PCR test will be required for positive lateral flow tests that are taken at home.

For anyone testing positive for COVID-19, a self-isolation information pack is available at oxfordshire.gov.uk/selfisolate to help provide advice and sources of support. If any result is negative, people must continue to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask in public and regularly wash their hands.

Community collect lateral flow tests are for eligible adults and should not be used for testing children. Children and young people at school or college should continue to use lateral flow tests provided to them by their school.

Any child or adult who has symptoms of COVID-19, should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test at one of Oxfordshire’s five symptomatic testing sites as soon as possible.

For further information on the types of tests available, residents can read the answers to a number of frequently asked questions on the county council’s website.