After receiving the go-ahead late on Friday evening from Government, the successful MAST testing pilot that was run in Liverpool will now be offered to people living and working in St Helens who do not have Covid-19 symptoms.

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St Helens Borough Council has opened its first Covid-19 Community Testing Centre, today, Monday 7 December, at St Mary’s Indoor Market, St Helens Town Centre, with support from the military over the weekend to set up the testing site. Soldiers are working with local authority staff to set up additional testing sites at Chester Lane Library and Community Centre, Sutton and Grange Valley Youth Centre, Haydock, which are planned to open on Wednesday 9 December.

All testing sites in the borough will operate on a walking in basis, with no need to book, seven days a week, from 8.30am – 6pm Monday – Friday and 10am – 3pm Saturday and Sundays.  They are for people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms. Residents who have symptoms; a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and a change or loss of taste or smell, should self-isolate immediately and book a test online at www.gov.uk/coronavirus or call 119.

Community testing is a positive step towards tackling Covid-19 as it identifies people with the virus who do not have symptoms and who could unknowingly be passing it on to others. Regular testing, ideally with around five days between tests, will help residents know if they are carrying the virus or not, and will also hopefully allow them to return to the things they love and have missed as a result of national and local restrictions.

The Leader of St Helens Borough Council, Labour’s David Baines, said: “It is fantastic news that we can now offer quick, symptom-free testing to people who live and work in St Helens Borough. 

“Regular symptom-free community testing helps us to identify those people who are infectious and may be unknowingly spreading the disease to others, allowing them to self-isolate and protect others.   

“Testing regularly will not only help protect lives but also livelihoods as it will help release people from self-isolating earlier if they test negative and allow them to get back to their jobs and employment, keeping our economy and town centres open for business – allowing those who continue to test negative to be able to enjoy some of those normal activities we’ve missed so much,  such as going to a football match, the cinema, or for a meal, or visiting elderly relatives – helping us to get back to a more normal way of life as we go into 2021. 

“I urge everyone living and working in our borough to come forward, get tested and let’s get back to the things we love.” 

Soldiers will be working alongside staff from St Helens Borough Council, to set up the testing stations and to help train staff in how to administer the test and testing process. Residents will take the swab test themselves with guidance from testing centre staff.  Volunteers from the local community have also been called on to help, with Halton and St Helens VCA working alongside the council to recruit residents who can help support by carrying out admin and queue management duties.

Symptom-free tests (or ‘lateral flow’ tests) are point of care tests, so don’t need to be processed in a lab. Results are ready very quickly – from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Residents will receive their tests results by text or email soon after they leave the test centre.

Sue Forster, Director of Public Health for St Helens Borough Council said: “Effective community testing is absolutely vital to our efforts to contain the virus, protect our NHS and save lives.

“Cases of Covid-19 are continuing to fall across the borough, and I want to thank you for the sacrifices that we have all made to make this a reality.  But to now help these figures to come down further, and to ensure that we continue to enjoy extra freedoms under Tier 2, I am asking everyone living and working across St Helens Borough to come forward and get tested.

“We all want to get back to a normal life as soon as possible, but until the vaccine has been fully rolled out there are three things we must all continue to do.

“So please, get tested, regularly. Self-isolate if you test positive or have symptoms. And, even if you test negative, follow the rules – hands, face, space and limit your contacts.”

For more information on when and how testing will be available and a list of frequently asked questions, please visit sthelens.gov.uk/LetsGetTested 

If you are interested in volunteering to help support symptom-free community testing please register at https://volunteering.haltonsthelensvca.org.uk  Full training and PPE will be provided. You’ll help manage queues and direct people safely. You won’t be required to administer tests. 

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