Preston: 'Get a test even if you don't have Covid symptoms and don't expect restrictions to make a difference for weeks'
People living in Preston are being encouraged to get a coronavirus test even if they have no symptoms of Covid-19.
It comes after it was revealed that there remains a “laser-like focus” on the city as infection rates continue to rise.
The partial lockdown restrictions imposed within the city council area a week ago are set to remain in place after their first weekly review by the government – and Lancashire public health bosses say that they are unlikely to have an effect on case numbers until at least four weeks after they began.
The latest data from Public Health England revals that there were 62 confirmed infections in the seven days to 11th August - although the seven-day rolling average has started to dip after its recent spike.
However, the organisation leading the county’s response to the pandemic has told national leaders that it does not believe tightening the measures any further would make much difference – because the disease is still primarily being transmitted in household settings.
It is hoped that identifying cases of Covid without any symptoms will help better track the virus in the community.
That means people living in the Preston City Council area who do not feel in any way unwell are now being advised to get a test – just to be sure.
Abdul Razaq, Lancashire’s acting director public health, said that so-called “asymptomatic testing” was a “vital part of our overall public health strategy in terms of identifying those residents who may actually carry the virus”.
Prestonians without symptoms can get a Covid test – without an appointment – at the Issa Medical Centre on St. Gregory Road, seven days a week between 10am and 3pm.
While any benefit of the additional restrictions imposed in Preston last week – which outlawed the mixing of households in homes and gardens and most indoor public areas – is not expected to be felt for several weeks yet, Mr. Razaq revealed that he was keen to avoid more stringent measures being imposed.
“[Transmission] is primarily not driven through businesses – this is very much through household clusters and social mixing happening within defined localities.
“But there is clearly the potential for an increase in community transmission and we want to work with those communities to bring infection rates down.
“Putting additional restrictions on our business sector – non-essential shops and the hospitality [industry] – is not something we would advocate, either locally or to national government,” Mr. Razaq said.
Instead, the public health boss said the county was calling for more help for people with symptoms or who have tested positive for Covid to do the right thing and self-isolate.
“We are seeking a range of supportive measures around self-isolation in terms of tackling economic hardship and those high-risk occupations [which kept] the country up and running during this first phase [of the pandemic].
“These communities have played a vital role within society, so now it’s our turn to step up and provide support to help them – in a non-judgemental way – and to work with them to defeat the virus as we go into a very difficult winter period.”
Mr. Razaq also said that South Ribble – which announced a slight increase in cases earlier this week – was not yet a “prime area of concern”.
However, he said that the borough – and neighbouring Chorley – was “stepping up plans around high-risk businesses, making sure they are actually Covid-secure – and making sure the message is being reinforced and pushing for additional testing in those areas”.
“They are very much early preventative measures at this stage, but we want to get ahead and make sure we are working with those communities before things potentially escalate further.”
After the government announced that all of the Covid restrictions currently in force in Preston, Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, Burnley, Hyndburn, Rossendale were going to remain in place for at least another week, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum, Angie Ridgwell, said that the county had to demonstrate to ministers that "we do take this seriously".
"We do need to work together to make sure we bring those rates down. Most people have been absolutely brilliant...and we urge you to continue [in that way].
"But there are a small minority who are not playing by the rules and it’s really important that we do so - because it’s only by everyone playing their part that we can make a difference and get back to some semblance of normal life as soon as we possibly can.
"Most of the businesses [in Lancashire] are acting responsibly in terms of protecting their clientele – but there are some businesses that are not being responsible - [and] where they are not, we will be taking action," Ms Ridgwell warned.