Residents are being urged to get rapid result coronavirus tests in their communities at least once a week, as case rates in the city have plateaued and are beginning to show signs of a slight increase.
The warning comes from city and health leaders at Stoke-on-Trent City Council who say it is crucial that residents continue to have regular tests if the national roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions is to be achieved. The authority has increased the availability of lateral flow testing, which gives a result in around 30 minutes, at more and more local venues, but uptake remains at around 20-30 per cent of capacity.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “We have all taken a lot of heart from the national plans to ease the country out of lockdown, and I speak to so many residents and businesses in the city who are as eager as I am for us to move on from this incredibly debilitating virus.
“But let me be really clear: we won’t get out of the restrictions if we don’t stop the spread. To do this, we must all get tested, and tested regularly.
“Last week we made 13,920 lateral flow tests available at 15 community venues all over Stoke-on-Trent. This week we have 16 venues – with Baddeley Green Working Men’s Club added to the list thanks to speedy help from our organisers and the local community – and we have a total of 17,808 tests available. Please book a test and do your bit to protect yourself and your loved ones, and play an important role in helping to kick coronavirus out of Stoke-on-Trent.”
Latest figures show that the seven-day coronavirus rate is 143.9 cases per 100,000 people, from February 12 to February 18, a decrease of 13.6% per cent on the previous seven days. The positivity rate – the percentage of people who have had a coronavirus test and tested positive – has also decreased to 5.8% per cent.
Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult social care, health integration and wellbeing, said: “While it is good news that case rates have fallen, we have reached a point where they have plateaued, and concerningly, there are signs that cases are rising slightly in the last couple of days.
“The significance of the role of regularly testing in helping to stop the spread of the disease cannot be underestimated. The government’s roadmap has made it clear that the community testing programme is being extended until at least the end of June. Social mixing is expected to increase over the next few weeks, so it is really important that we all get tested, particularly those who have not had a vaccination yet and those who are key workers who cannot work from home. Our data shows that case rates are highest in Fenton East, Hanley Park and Shelton, and Penkhull and Stoke; we’re urging people in these areas to please get tested.”
A full list of community locations where lateral flow tests are available is on the council website, book at www.stoke.gov.uk/bookacovid19test. Residents experiencing one or more of the following symptoms are not eligible for lateral flow testing and should instead book a test through https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test, or by calling 119:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus vaccination programme is continuing to accelerate, with more than 330,000 people receiving the first dose vaccination across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, and people with learning disabilities will also now be getting the jab.
A total of 32 per cent of the adult population across the city and Staffordshire have had the first dose vaccination, including 96 per cent of the over 70s and 85 per cent of the over 65s, which is higher than the national average.
People aged 16 and over with a diagnosed learning disability and registered as such with their GP will be included in ‘cohort six’ of the vaccination programme in the city in the next few weeks.
Dr Edmondson-Jones added: “We’re also including anybody open to the council’s learning disability service, for people with moderate to severe learning disabilities, if they are not registered with their GP. It also means we can ensure people can be vaccinated who are living in tenancies supported by staff who have been vaccinated. This has been an area of concern for those families who have been unable to visit so we’re pleased that we’re able to respond accordingly to these concerns. We ask people not to contact their GP practice for an appointment. We will contact you over the coming weeks to offer an appointment.
“We know people with learning disabilities are at a higher risk of complications from the coronavirus, so it is great news that we’re able to do this. People are always at the heart of decisions that we make. Wherever we can, we’ll always aim to put them first. I’m so pleased for the families across the city and county who will benefit as a result.”