With workplaces, schools and colleges across West Berkshire mixing in greater numbers, Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB) is advising local residents to heed public health guidance to test regularly. As society mixes more, people are getting out and about to shops, cafes and restaurants, it is important everyone ensures they keep testing to stay safe. With this in mind, until December, HWWB is assisting in the co-ordination of a series of pop-up Community Testing events in and around West Berkshire, called it’s #TimeToTest.
“Although with over 115,00 people in West Berkshire double vaccinated, the majority of over 18s have been vaccinated in our area and so are less likely to be hospitalised by a COVID-19 infection, we still need to take care to protect our friends, family and those we love,“ commented Andrew Sharp, Chief Officer of Healthwatch West Berks. “The return of our region’s younger people to schools and colleges, around our district and further across the country, means that we should all be mindful to remember that COVID-19 is highly contagious. We at Healthwatch West Berks think the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to keep testing! So, we are working in conjunction with West Berkshire Public Health, West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board and Community United West Berkshire, inviting residents, particularly those who are more vulnerable to the virus, such as people from ethnic minorities, those who are homeless, people from traveller communities and those unsure about testing, to visit one of the pop-up Community Testing sites and get testing!”
The UK Government has said that the Test, Trace and Isolate system remains critical to managing the virus over the autumn and winter, as it helps to find positive cases and make sure they and their unvaccinated contacts self –isolate. It, alongside rapid asymptomatic testing, continues to be an important tool to help reduce the spread of the virus, while supporting people to manage their own risk and the risk to others.
Since the asymptomatic testing programme began, it has found over 700,000 cases, and currently, lateral flow devices (LFD) identify around a quarter of all cases reported daily. As such the Government will continue to provide the public with access to free lateral flow tests over the coming months. This will enable people to test themselves if they have come in close contact with others in a higher risk environment, or before spending prolonged time with a more vulnerable person.
“As we learn to live with coronavirus it’s important we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, and each other,” said Councillor Graham Bridgman, West Berkshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Public Health and Wellbeing. “Vaccinations, boosters and regular testing are all very important, but there are other things we can do as well. Staying at home and taking a test if you feel unwell, use of face coverings and remembering to maintain good ventilation when meeting other people can help. These are things we need to do as a community, and I’m delighted to be working with partners such as Healthwatch West Berkshire to support the continuing uptake of vaccinations and testing here in West Berkshire.”
The Government suggests everyone should test twice a week, but not everyone is aware how quick and easy it is. So, why not join in with West Berkshire’s #Time2Test initiative? If you do not currently have a test kit or are unsure how to do the test yourself at home, why not visit the Healthwatch West Berks website and see where the next pop-up will be? It might be at your local supermarket or school or a nearby community centre. Everyone is welcome to come along to the pop-ups, where the team will be offering assisted testing, so that you can learn to test yourself and your family at home; they will be offering advice on testing too. Also, if you haven’t yet picked up a free COVID-19 test kit online or from your pharmacy, there will be an opportunity to take one home with you.
If you know a group of people who are susceptible to COVID-19, perhaps because they are immuno-compromised (such as those undertaking cancer treatment) or at higher risk (perhaps due to their ethnicity), then please contact the team at HWWB. The HWWB team is looking for suitable sites to bring the pop-up to, so that everyone locally is reached by the West Berkshire Community Testing initiative, enabling the widest possible number of people to get assistance from the #Time2Test team.
Healthwatch West Berks, the Community Testing pop-up and the #Time2Test team will be out and about in the West Berkshire area until the 31st December, check out the latest updates on the initiative by visiting the Community Testing page at: https://www.healthwatchwestberks.org.uk/2021/09/west-berkshire-community-testing/ or call 01635 886210 if you’d like to talk to one of the team.