Message from Debs Harkins, Director of Public Health on COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing

In the last two weeks, we have seen a steady reduction in COVID-19 rates in Calderdale. This is testament to the hard work of staff across the Council and in our local partner organisations, and the sacrifices and determination of Calderdale’s kind and resilient communities. If these trends can be sustained, I hope that it won’t be too long until local restrictions will be relaxed in Halifax.

Despite these reductions, it is clear that we will continue to live with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. This means it is essential that we can all access testing if we have symptoms of COVID-19, work in a high risk occupation or live in a high incidence area.

I receive a lot of questions and get a lot of feedback about testing, and I thought it would be useful to update you about our approach, who is eligible and how testing can be accessed.

Types of tests

Antigen or PCR test

  • This is carried out by a swab being taken from the back of the throat and nose.
  • It tells you if you have currently got COVID-19.
  • It can be a self-test or undertaken by a healthcare worker.
  • This is the test that is widely available and that we are focusing on as part of our plan to reduce COVID-19 infection rates in Calderdale.

Antibody test

  • This is carried out by a blood sample being taken.
  • It tells you if you have had COVID-19 by identifying antibodies that show that you have been exposed to the virus.
  • This test is being offered to front line health and care workers to help us understand more about the groups of people that have been in contact with the virus so far in the epidemic. This will help us plan for a possible second wave.
  • We don’t yet know how long antibodies create immunity to the virus and whether people who have had the virus can pass it on to others. Many other types of coronavirus create antibodies that only provide immunity for around a year.
  • Antibody tests are available to buy, but many of those on the market are unreliable.

Improving testing in Calderdale

Although the amount of testing being carried out on Calderdale residents is higher than average, it has reduced slightly over the last couple of weeks. This is influenced by recent problems with laboratory capacity nationally.

Currently, 90% of test results will be received within 24 hours and the rest within 48 hours, although in previous weeks lab capacity issues have meant that some tests have taken longer.

Our testing strategy aims to:

  • Increase the amount of testing undertaken in the borough
  • Improve access to testing for residents
  • Use intelligence to target testing at people in high risk areas, settings and occupations, whether or not they have symptoms

How to access a test

People with symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing:

  • By booking online or calling 119
  • You will be able to choose from:
    •  A regional drive in centre in Leeds or Bradford
    • A local mobile testing unit at Todmorden or Mixenden (one will soon be visiting Brighouse too)
    • The local walk-up centre at Asda, Thrum Hall Lane, Halifax which can be attended without an appointment
    • Arranging a postal test kit to be sent to your home

Intelligence led testing

We are also offering tests to groups of people that intelligence tells us are at a greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 because of their living or working conditions. We contact people if they are eligible to support them to arrange to get tested.

  • NHS staff can access routine testing through their employer
  • Care home staff and residents are routinely offered testing every two weeks. This is helping us identify cases in homes quickly so that we can prevent them developing into outbreaks
  • We are developing a testing programme for people in high risk occupations starting with taxi drivers
  • We are working with the Government and voluntary and community groups to deliver a community testing programme focusing on areas of the borough with a high incidence of COVID-19

How you can help

You can help us promote the testing of people who have symptoms of COVID-19 among your family and friends, community or service users.
Here are some important messages about COVID-19 testing.

  • There’s no shame in getting COVID, no one is to blame. Millions of people across the world have had the virus
  • If you have symptoms it’s really important that you self-isolate and get a test as soon as possible. It’s easy to arrange and you can just walk up (while maintaining social distancing) to the testing site at Asda, Thrum Hall Lane, or go online and book a test at one of the local or regional testing sites. You can even arrange for a test to be sent to your home.
  • If you test positive you must isolate for at least 10 days from the day you first got symptoms. NHS Test and Trace or Calderdale’s local contact tracers will contact you to ask who you have been in contact with when you were infectious so please give them as much information as you can. People you have been in contact with won’t be given your name or told you tested positive.
  • If you are called by NHS Test and Trace and told you are a contact of someone with the virus, please follow their advice and isolate for 14 days.
  • This isolation is really important. It is how we separate people who have been exposed to the virus from everyone else, and break the chain of infection.
  • If you or someone you know needs help to self-isolate you can contact our community support hub.

Message from Debs Harkins, Director of Public Health, Thursday 3 September 2020

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