CORONAVIRUS testing across Saddleworth and Oldham is undergoing a major restructure to help give residents better access.
As some lockdown rules ease from Monday, March 29, the borough is changing when and where people can continue to be tested.
The four current sites in Uppermill, Failsworth, Shaw and Oldham Town Centre leisure centre will close on Wednesday, March 31.
Instead, a number of community sites, such as local pharmacies, will become the locations for people to be tested on a regular basis from Thursday, April 1.
These tests are for people who are not showing symptoms, for example anyone who can’t work from home or care home visitors.
Katrina Stephens, Oldham’s Director for Public Health, said: “As part of Oldham’s wider strategy, the continuation of community testing has the potential to make a real difference to the course of the pandemic.
“It increases the chances of finding cases early, prevents the spread of the virus and reduces case rates.
“Keeping rates low is important in helping to avoid any future spikes in case rates and therefore the potential for lockdown measures to be reintroduced by Central Government.”
Another key part of coronavirus testing is home testing. People eligible can pick up free family home testing from Lees Library, Crompton Library, Failsworth Library, The Link Centre (Oldham Town Centre).
Those eligible include households, childcare and support bubbles of early years children, nursery children, primary and secondary-age pupils and college students households, childcare and support bubbles of staff of nurseries, primary and secondary schools and colleges, anyone who works in an occupation related to a childcare provider, school, nursery or college, and their household, childcare and support bubbles staff of primary and secondary schools, nurseries and colleges.
Secondary school children and college students have now moved from testing in schools to being given home testing kits and are being encouraged to do these at least twice a week and to record their results with their school and the national test and trace app.
Oldham also has ‘PCR’ coronavirus testing facilities in at Southgate Street (in the town centre), Peel Street (Chadderton) and Honeywell Centre.
Free ‘PCR’ testing is available at these sites seven days a week to anyone showing symptoms or has concerns about coronavirus.
There are also mobile testing sites on a regular basis around Oldham (details regularly put on Oldham Council’s social media feeds)
The best way to book a slot is to go to gov.uk website or call 119, but walk-up appointments are available if the site is not busy.
If you have symptoms or suspect you may have coronavirus, you and all members of your household must self-isolate until you are able to get tested and have received your test result. If the result is positive you will need to continue to isolate in line with national guidance.
Ms Stephens said: “One in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms and so can pass on the virus without knowing it.
“Regular testing for people who do not have symptoms is therefore a vital weapon in our armoury in the fight against the virus.
“But to get the most out of it, uptake of testing and compliance with self-isolation need to be high. That is why isolating if you have symptoms or a positive test or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive is so important.
“Even if people have had a vaccination, we are still asking them to have regular tests as there is still a risk that they can catch and spread the virus.
“When people are showing symptoms, they must get a PCR test as soon as possible and look to follow the guidance on self-isolation. We know that self-isolation can be difficult but there is help available.”
For more detail on coronavirus support and a full list of testing sites, visit Oldham Council’s website: www.oldham.gov.uk/coronavirus