Rapid symptom-free testing available for public-facing workers in Oxfordshire

From Tuesday 23 February, workers and volunteers in public-facing roles will be able to get a free rapid COVID-19 test as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s symptom-free testing programme.  

The county council is working in partnership with the city and district councils to provide regular rapid testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms who work and volunteer outside the home.

The free tests are for people who do not have access to workplace testing through their employer. This includes the self-employed and people who work for small businesses, for example taxi drivers, independent retailers, and tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians.

Around one in three people with COVID-19 have no symptoms and so regular testing is an important tool to help stop the spread of the virus. It will help identify and self-isolate those who are unaware they are carrying the virus, which will protect work colleagues, customers and communities alike. The rapid spread of the highly infectious new variant of COVID-19 makes the testing of those who work outside the home an even greater priority.

Oxfordshire’s symptom-free testing programme, which launched on 8 February, began with the police and fire service and was then expanded to include early years workers and childminders as well as council staff in public-facing roles. Now public-facing workers and volunteers across the county are being invited to get tested once a week.

People can book a free test online and go to one of three locations:

  • Spiceball Leisure Centre in Banbury (OX16 2BW)
  • The Beacon in Wantage (OX12 9BX)
  • King’s Centre in Oxford (OX2 0ES)

The tests take just 15 minutes using lateral flow devices and involve taking a swab of the back of the throat and inside the nose. The swab is then given to trained staff at the test centre who process the test on-site. Results are given within an hour by text message or by email. Anyone who tests positive is told to self-isolate and follow the national guidance. They are provided with detailed advice and support on self-isolation.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “I am delighted that we are now able to provide symptom-free testing for public-facing workers and volunteers across the county, who otherwise are unable to access testing through workplace schemes.

Broadening testing to identify more people who could be spreading the disease without knowing it will help prevent new cases. With one in three people with COVID-19 having no symptoms, this programme is essential for those who work outside the home and it will help us more effectively control the virus and stop the spread.

“I cannot emphasise just how important this testing programme is for our communities, and to us all in our fight against this virus. If you need to leave home to work or volunteer, I would strongly encourage you to get a test as soon as possible.

“I would also like to stress that these tests do not replace the public health measures in place to stop the spread of infection. So, even if you are being tested on a regular basis, you must still make sure you wash your hands regularly, stay two metres apart and wear a face covering.”

Symptom-free testing works hand in hand with the existing free testing service for those with COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with one or more of these symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – should book a test through the national booking system at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

Oxfordshire’s symptom-free testing is aimed at those people who cannot work from home. Residents should continue to work from home where possible; those who can work from home do not need to get tested.

The symptom-free testing programme is operated separately from the vaccination programme. If you are eligible for a COVID vaccination, you will be contacted individually by the NHS about this.

Find out more about symptom-free testing in Oxfordshire by visiting www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/symptomfreetesting.