Penrith’s Ullswater Community College has opened as a COVID community testing centre — aimed at screening those who cannot work from home.
The centres are part of the Government’s fight to stop the spread of coronavirus through asymptomatic carriers who may be working in the community.
Drop-in sessions are running from 9.15am to 12.30pm each Saturday and 5.15pm to 7.30pm Wednesdays with no appointment needed and tests are free.
A total of 30 members of staff from the school are helping to run the testing centre and offer lateral flow tests which do not need to be sent off for laboratory analysis and can provide a COVID result within 30 minutes.
Anyone who tests positive for the virus must then isolate for 10 days.
Ullswater Community College assistant headteacher India Campbell said: “We are so pleased to be able to support the community in this way and have the opportunity to help those people who haven’t got access to tests. That’s why we have opened up our buildings to do this.”
At each session, 20 members of staff from the school are on hand to help, along with volunteers from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.
Firefighter Adam Tracey, who is leading the Penrith centre — currently the only one in Eden — said at the launch on Saturday they had 19 people attend to be tested.
He added that this was a relatively low number, but he expected more people to attend once people become aware of the site. Employers may also potentially begin to ask staff to attend for regular tests.
Ullswater Community College staff member Joanne Ewbank, of Langwathby, was one of those on hand to help on Wednesday.
Joanne said: “It’s a great thing for the community because it’s the only one in our area. Once we get the word out, more people will come along and get tests and realise how easy and simple it is.
“Everybody has been really friendly, it has been a good atmosphere. Some people have been anxious, but after we chat to them they are OK about it.”
After registering details, those attending are sent through to a testing area and talked through the lateral flow test step-by-step.
Results are then sent by text message or email. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms is reminded not to attend the community test centres and must book a test through nhs.uk/coronavirus or by telephoning 119.
Yesterday, six additional sites were announced, although Penrith remains the only site in Eden.
Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “Mass lateral flow testing of those without symptoms is a key part of the strategy for preventing the spread of COVID and getting us out of lockdown.
“With these additional six sites announced this week, we now have 11 sites up and running. Opening times will be reviewed based on demand for testing and more sites are also being scoped as possibilities.
“People who want to access rapid testing have a range of options to choose from. It’s quick and simple and gives people the reassurance that they are not unwittingly infecting other people as they go about their work.
“I’d strongly encourage those essential workers who are unable to work from home, cannot be tested in the workplace and are in regular contact with other people to make use of the new community testing sites.”