‘It’s not possible to fight a fire blindfolded’ said the World Health Organisation back in March when they issued the maxim ‘Test, Test, Test’ to governments around the world. Until we have a vaccine, knowing who is infected is key because we can then selectively isolate people and trace those with whom they have been in contact. Social distancing and handwashing will not extinguish this epidemic alone.
That is why the Department for Health and Social Care has been resolutely focussed upon expanding our national testing capability throughout April and as a result, last week, eligibility for Covid-19 testing was significantly extended. You can now access a test if you; are an essential worker with symptoms, are over 65 with symptoms, have symptoms and cannot work from home, or if you have symptoms and live with any of the above.
Here in Maidstone and The Weald, there are three main ways to access a test; Most people will attend a drive through centre, like the one at Ebbsfleet, which last week had capacity to carry out 1900 tests a day. Alternatively, there are home test kits available or you can attend (by appointment) one of the mobile testing centres that began operating in Kent last Wednesday. If you are eligible you can book a test here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test.
Our hospitals at Maidstone and Pembury now test all patients on admission and discharge, regardless of symptoms. This ensures that every patient can be cared for, monitored, treated and shielded in separated areas whilst keeping NHS staff safe. The Trust has also been testing their key workers, who present with Covid-19 symptoms, for many weeks now, with over 500 being carried out thus far. This has undoubtedly helped minimise staff absence, thereby helping maintain patient care.
In a few days the PM will explain the roadmap to the end of lockdown, and that will be a welcome ray of light in this dark tunnel. Meanwhile take care and stay safe.