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.
In Oxford the testing centre is the King’s Centre on Osney Mead Industrial Estate, OX2 0ES. Public-facing workers and are being invited to book a free test online and recommended to get tested once a week.
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. 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.
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.
Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for a Safer, Healthy Oxford, said:
“Alongside the vaccine, testing for positive cases and helping people to self-isolate is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of this disease. It is great news that we can now offer regular tests for people who don’t have symptoms but who work or volunteer with the public. One in three people with the virus don’t have symptoms, so a test is the only way to know. Finding out you are positive is the first step, after that you must self-isolate. We know how difficult that can be and we are here to help with financial and practical support in Oxford. I would urge all those people who are now eligible to get tested regularly and find out about self-isolation support. We still have a lot of people in hospital in Oxford suffering the horrors of serious covid, by getting tested and self-isolating you can help prevent more infections. Please do your bit to keep everyone safe.”
Information on self-isolation support is available at http://www.oxford.gov.uk/selfisolate or by phoning the council on 01865 249 811
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, said:
“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.
Find out more about symptom-free testing in Oxfordshire by visiting www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/symptomfreetesting