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The Day Lewis pharmacy in Mount Pleasant, one of two in Hastings where where aysmptomatic testing is taking place (photo: Russell Jacobs).

Asymptomatic testing starts in Sussex

A first stage of testing people who may have Covid-19 but show no symptoms has got under way in East and West Sussex. Testing is being carried out at two test sites and a number of participating pharmacies. Nick Terdre reports.

Under the Sussex Symptom-Free Community Testing Programme, all adults in East and West Sussex who have to leave home to work or for caring duties but do not have symptoms of coronavirus are being invited to take a test.

The move constitutes a step towards providing mass community testing across the county for all symptom-free people – people who may carry the virus and be able to transmit it to others although they themselves display no symptoms.

Those wishing to be tested have to apply online and book an appointment at one of two dedicated test sites, at Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre in Brighton and Hove Town Hall, or one of 18 participating pharmacies across the two counties. The initiative has been organised by East Sussex County Council together with Brighton & Hove City Council and West Sussex County Council.

According to the online list there are two participating pharmacies in Hastings, branches of Day Lewis at 7 Parkstone Road and 25 Mount Pleasant. No pharmacies are listed in Bexhill, but other branches of Day Lewis are participating in Eastbourne and Willingdon.

Other listed pharmacies in East Sussex are Proctor Health Care Pharmacy in Polegate, Ticehurst Pharmacy in Ticehurst, two Proctor Health Care branches in Heathfield, Kamsons Pharmacy in Uckfield, St Anne’s Pharmacy in Lewes, Brighton Community Pharmacy in Brighton and Burwash Pharmacy and Traherne Pharmacy, both in Hove.

LFD tests conducted in Hastings to 11 March, when 2,077 tests were performed. The seven-day average – represented by the continuous line – was 1,303.4 on 8 March, the last date available (source: UK Coronavirus Dashboard).

One in three

The intention eventually is to offer testing to all who are asymptomatic as a means of identifying and reducing the prevalence of Covid-19 in the community – as many as one in three infected people are thought to be asymptomatic. Testing for those with symptoms has long been in place. Anyone who tests positive, asymptomatic or not, is asked to self-isolate, along with their contacts.

ESCC decided to introduce mass community testing in January but the process has been a slow one. Council leader Keith Glazier told viewers of Question Time on 19 February that he expected a soft launch aimed at some specific groups on 1 March, but at the time only a short pilot was under way.

“With one in three people with Covid-19 experiencing no symptoms, this kind of testing will play an important role in helping us to stop the spread of the virus,” said Darrell Gale, East Sussex director of Public Health.

“Continuing to follow the current guidelines is vital, but symptom-free testing can show whether an individual needs to self-isolate and whether their contacts need to be traced. The faster we can identify those with the virus, the better chance we have of limiting the spread.

LFD tests conducted in Rother to 11 March, when 1,609 tests were performed. The seven-day average- represented by the continuous line – was 1,223.6 on 8 March, the last date available (source: UK Coronavirus Dashboard).

Maximising access

“We are pleased to have been able to work with Brighton & Hove and West Sussex councils as it has allowed us to maximise the access our residents have to tests while we work to get more pharmacies on board.”

Tests are performed using the lateral flow device (LFD), which gives a result in between 30 minutes and two hours. Results are communicated by email or text, or to another family member of trusted friend. Regular testing is recommended – anyone who is eligible is encouraged to book a test twice a week with three days between tests. Those who have been vaccinated but have to work outside the home are also asked to take the test as they may also carry the virus.

Businesses of any size whose employees cannot work from home may request test kits directly from the government – interest has to be registered by 31 March at a dedicated portal. On 13 March the health and social care department reported that more than 48,000 businesses had registered interest, more than 9,000 of which had completed the sign-up process.

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 13 March.

 

Find out more about symptom-free testing in East Sussex and book an appointment here.

 

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Posted 20:40 Friday, Mar 12, 2021 In: Covid-19

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