A London council has become the first in the capital to launch its own express COVID-19 testing centre for key workers over fears the Government programme will not cope with a surge in cases over winter.
Barking and Dagenham Council spent half term setting up the site and writing to some 7,000 teachers, carers and frontline council workers in the borough who will get priority for same day testing and results.
Council leader Darren Rodwell said delays in people accessing tests or receiving results days later were causing “significant” problems for schools and care homes across east London because staff had to self-isolate.
Key workers were invited to get tests at the former council depot Pondfield House in Dagenham from this morning.
Mr Rodwell said: “We have a big issue with people still going to work with coronavirus. We have to make sure people are doing what is asked of them. Our teachers look after our youngest and they are much safer in school than they are out. Our carers look after our elderly and people in need.
“We don’t want lots of staff isolating just because they have symptoms when it could be a winter cold. If they can go somewhere that morning and we can get them a result that evening or the following morning then they are feeling better about it, we know about cases quickly and it’s better for our residents.”
He hopes that after the six-week pilot, running until Christmas, the scheme can be rolled out to other London boroughs.
“Mainly we are doing this for our own staff, he said. “But with the network of councils there is no reason we cannot supersize it in a way that would work across London.”
The council has also set up its own test and trace system because of concerns the national system is not working as well as it could be.
“Government is being too centralised”, he said. “What I’m saying is with councils like mine we are able to offer a lot more than what Government is asking from us, but what we need is funding.”