When the Prime Minister announced the UK’s first lockdown on 23 March 2020, little did we know that the pandemic would continue for the best part of two years. During that time there have been huge changes and challenges for us all to face and for the Council, lots of new services and support to deliver – one of which being COVID-19 testing.
Now that the Government has announced an end to COVID-19 restrictions and published it’s Living with COVID-19 plan, the Council’s responsibility to provide local testing will stop and the Government will no longer provide free symptomatic or asymptomatic testing for the general public.*
Testing has played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic and become a major part of Knowsley’s efforts to manage case levels.
Knowsley Council quickly set up seven testing sites from Tuesday 8 December 2020, recruiting over 100 staff in a matter of days to resource the sites. The number of staff employed increased to almost 200 people at key peaks throughout the pandemic.
Over the last 15 months, residents responded in their thousands to our “Let’s Get Tested” message which has resulted in almost 138,000 asymptomatic tests being carried out at the sites. Of these, 2,539 were recorded as positive.
As well as supporting testing, staff at the sites have provided invaluable support and advice to the thousands of residents who have visited including information about when to self-isolate and for how long, access to self-isolation payments, how to access PCR tests, general preventative advice including regular hand washing and wearing face coverings. Information about the COVID-19 vaccination (why it’s important, how to book an appointment) has also been shared.
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said “As I have said on many occasions, I am incredibly proud of how our staff and our communities have responded to the challenges the pandemic has presented. With numerous lockdowns, restrictions to comply with and many people also juggling job losses, financial pressures, home schooling, illness and bereavement, we are now at a point where we can start to look to the future without the repeated disruption COVID-19 has brought.
“Testing has been an instrumental part of our COVID-19 response and I want to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who has supported our testing programme. From the staff working in our centres to the many thousands of residents who showed up to be tested and protect their communities, I want to thank you. This has been a fantastic demonstration of Knowsley Better Together in action and I am incredibly proud of our collective response.”
Knowsley’s testing sites were reduced to four from July 2021 and are located in Halewood, Huyton, Kirkby and Prescot. These sites offer testing kits, as well as assisted testing, to residents and will remain open until 4pm on Saturday 26 March as per the Government’s plan to live with COVID-19.
*Free testing will be available to vulnerable groups (such as care home residents and hospital patients), but guidance is awaited around eligibility criteria and how to access tests.