York coronavirus regional testing centre opens for key workers

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility has opened at Poppleton Bar Park and Ride in York as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS and other key workers.

The site sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK, and is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers. The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation.

This follows the launch of the Government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin roll-out of the network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK, with 28 regional testing sites opened to date.

This network will provide thousands more PCR swab tests – which are used to identify if you currently have the virus – for critical key workers, starting with NHS front line staff. This means those who test negative for coronavirus can return to work as soon as possible, and those who test positive are able to recover.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “The Government is rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.

“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff and other key workers need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.

“This is a national effort and we are proud to be working with a number of partners to turn this ambition into a reality and roll out additional capacity to where it is needed.”

Professor John Newton, National Coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our 5-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff and other frontline workers who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.

“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day across the UK by the end of the month.”

The testing centre is being operated in partnership with Serco and Boots, and will offer assisted and self-administered tests. Those tested will receive their results within a few days.

Richard Flinton, Chair of North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, said: “The centre serving North Yorkshire LRF area will be a hugely valuable asset in the region’s fight against the impact of Coronavirus – particularly in helping critical key workers, like health and social care staff, return to work.

“Making sure these front line staff can support their NHS partners with hospital discharges and residential care providers with managing admissions to care homes as well being able to continue to provide important safeguarding roles is essential. The work they do is saving lives and protecting the health services and the public.

“The fact that the facility will also allow a broad range of other LRF partners access to testing including we hope police and fire officers, without really long round trips, is also very welcome.”

Professor Stephen Eames, Independent Chair and System Lead for Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership, said: “I am delighted to see this additional facility in place to serve our health and social care staff and key workers across York and North Yorkshire. This is an important part of our overall strategy in Humber, Coast and Vale to ensure our health and care system continues to meet all the health and care needs of people in our region. Thanks to the hard work and cooperation of a wide range of partner organisations, we have been able to get this site up and running so that we can help get our key workers back to work.”

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, which provides bus services on the Park and Ride network in partnership with City of York Council, said: “We are working closely with the council to enable key workers to travel during the fight against coronavirus and helping to make this site available for testing is another way we can support them to be at work or stay safe.”

Kevin Craven, Serco CEO for UK and Europe, said: “We are pleased to be supporting the Government and the NHS in setting up and managing the new testing centre in York as well as the testing centres we are already operating.

“I would like to pay tribute to my colleagues who have worked extremely fast and professionally, and with the other organisations involved, to set up these centres having deployed from other roles within Serco. I know that they are proud to be doing their part in helping the country tackle coronavirus”

A Boots UK spokesperson said: “Boots has been at the heart of UK healthcare for 171 years and has always come forward to support the community in times of need. Our team in York is no exception. Some of our colleagues have already stepped forward to volunteer to run this COVID-19 testing station, which will start testing its first critical workers on Sunday.”

The Government is also urgently working on setting up a home-testing service for critical key workers, supported by Amazon’s logistics network and other commercial partners.

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