Volunteers may be needed for surge testing in West Berkshire

The following statement was received from West Berkshire Council on 1 March 2021 and we’re happy to reproduce it here.

You will no doubt know from coverage in the media that extensive surveillance of coronavirus has identified a small number of cases of Covid-19 variants and mutations which cannot all be traced back to international travel. The government is using surge testing and genomic sequencing to monitor and better understand new variants. Surge testing has recently been carried out in a number of locations across the UK including Middlesbrough, Surrey, Hampshire and more recently in Buckinghamshire. More information in relation to this can be found here.

All councils have been asked to prepare in case surge testing is needed in their local areas. West Berkshire Council has been developing a framework to use should we be asked to carry out surge testing. As part of that planning an option would be to deliver and collect completed test kits in the local community. Depending on the size of the area selected for testing, this process may be resource-intensive, particularly as testing is carried out over a short period (normally four to five days).

It is important to emphasise that we are making preparations just in case the need arises, not because we know it will.

To help carry out the delivery and collection of test kits we may need to ask for volunteer support. We would like to ask for this to come from the local community in the first instance due to the support you have already offered during this pandemic and the fact that you know your local community well. The most likely role that volunteers would be asked to fulfil would be the door-to-door drop off and collecting of testing kits in the community.

The volunteers would be led by someone from the Council, or perhaps a representative from the emergency services, and would be provided with ID, PPE and training. We would therefore be seeking local people who do not fall into any of the vulnerable categories or have been advised to shield. They would need to be physically fit since they would be on their feet all day, carrying testing kits around with them. There may also be a need to have their own transport and to have a lateral flow test. The final criteria, however, will be very much reliant on where the testing is to be done and where we are on the roadmap out of lockdown.

So what are we asking you to do now? Well, at this stage we are not asking that you do anything specific since we hope we never have to activate the framework and develop a detailed plan.  You may, however, wish to consider the potential request within your community groups so they are aware of the possibility that help might be required.

Should you have any queries then please email the Community Hub on hubmanager@westberks.gov.uk

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