By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
THE military has been drafted in to help launch rapid Covid-19 testing for key workers without symptoms of the virus in Oldham.
From Monday, January 18 people who work in public-facing jobs and key workers who find it hard to socially distance at work will be able to access tests which give results within 30 minutes.
More than 5,000 businesses in the borough have been written to with details on how to access the sites.
Bosses say the asymptomatic testing will play an important part in continuing attempts to ‘contain, manage and ultimately defeat coronavirus’.
Military personnel will work alongside public sector staff to test at four sites in Oldham: at Shaw Lifelong Learning Centre, Failsworth Town Hall, Oldham Community Leisure Centre, and Uppermill Civic Hall.
No appointment is necessary, however invited people will need to bring identification which confirms their place of work or their status as a key worker, for example work identification badge or key worker letter.
Rapid tests use an oral and nasal swab but do not need to be processed by a specialist laboratory and can produce results within 30 minutes.
Councillor Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham Council, said: “This is another significant piece of the jigsaw to tackle coronavirus in Oldham and the call to action is for businesses and workers to continue to play their part and we thank them for their efforts so far.
“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, testing has been a key feature of managing and containing the spread of the virus. Until this point, testing has mainly been available for people with symptoms.
“Oldham – along with other Greater Manchester areas – is part of the national programme to offer regular rapid testing to people with no symptoms.
“In Oldham, regular and weekly testing is being offered to people who are at higher risk of coming into contact with the virus, for example due to working in public-facing roles or in workplaces with high numbers of staff, as well as settings where the risks of spreading the virus are greatest.”
The borough had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country two months ago but now has one of the lowest in Greater Manchester.
For the week ending January 8, Oldham’s infection rate was 384.6 per 100,000, the joint lowest of all ten Greater Manchester boroughs.