More than 500 Covid-19 tests carried out daily in Southend

Around 500 Covid-19 tests are being carried out every day in Southend thanks to the opening of test centres at the airport and in the town centre.

The number of tests has shot up by hundreds over a single month with council data showing that a month ago there was a daily average of just 161.

Southend’s director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said that of those 500 tests, the rate of people testing positive for the virus is between just 0.6 and 0.8 per cent against an East of England average of 1.1 per cent.

He said: “We have significantly increased our testing in Southend. We are doing 145,000 tests per 100,000 peoples over a seven-day rolling average.

“If you compare that with the East of England they are much, much lower than what we are achieving.”

Figures shown to the council’s People Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday night show that Southend is carrying out 30,000 additional tests per 100,000 than the East of England where the average is only 115,000.

Southend already has a drive-in test centre at the airport but Mr Ramkhelawon credited the boost in testing to an agreement with the Department of Health to open an additional centre in Short Street.

He said: “We had direct negotiations with the Department of Health and Social Care and said that given some of the mobility issues with people having to attend the drive-in service at Southend Airport, we want a dedicated testing site in the town centre.

“The Department of Health did open a site on August 19 and it is run by them but it has increased our capacity to carry out an extra 400 tests per day – we’ve gone from having about 120 and 140 tests a day in the first week of August to now having in excess of 500 to 600 tests per day.”

The positive progress made in the borough has led to a degree of “complacency”, according to Independent councillor Trevor Harp, who oversees health in the borough.

Cllr Harp told the committee: “We’re not out of this by a long way yet so we don’t want to see complacency creeping in.

“Unfortunately we have had a couple of instances over the last week or so where we have had reports of that happening among the business community, who have in general been very supportive of us in helping with all the Covid secure measures that have been put in place.

“But we can’t take our eyes off the ball.”

He went on to urge councillors to report any businesses seen to be flouting the rules so that the council can launch an investigation.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter