The initiative is part of the Government’s continuing UK wide drive to increase asymptomatic mass testing.
The first ‘Blue Light Hub’ has opened at Fallings Park Fire Station today (Wednesday 16 December) as part of the council’s Lateral Flow Test (LFT) pilot.
The swab tests give results within an hour and are designed to identify those with COVID-19 who are experiencing no symptoms, to help drive down the R rate, contain the spread of the virus and save lives.
Following the success of LFTs in Liverpool in driving down infection rates, the testing will be initially open to staff at WMFS who live or work in Wolverhampton and also accessible to colleagues from West Midlands Police. They will be delivered by volunteer testing teams, made up of WMFS staff volunteers.
Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer for West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We continue to be ready, willing and able to support our communities in whatever ways possible during this pandemic. I am very grateful to our incredible staff who have volunteered to carry out the tests and to be tested themselves.
“We have robust control measures in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within our service, ensuring we can continue to deliver our core services to our communities. It is still possible, however, that our staff can contract it away from work and show no symptoms.
“Infection rates across the West Midlands still remain high. By regularly testing our staff, we can ensure we remain as prepared and healthy as possible to serve our communities. It will also provide an extra level of comfort and reassurance to our staff and their families, as well as our police colleagues.”
The next Blue Light Hubs expected to open for WMFS testing will be at Stourbridge Fire Station from tomorrow (Thursday 15 December), specifically for those staff who live and work in Dudley. West Midlands Fire Service is committed to establishing blue light hubs in each of the local authority areas over the coming weeks, including Birmingham, Coventry and Sandwell.
Testing for members of the public without symptoms of Covid-19 is also currently available at the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Civic Centre from 8am to 7pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The facility is staffed by volunteers from the council and has the capacity to deliver hundreds of tests each day.
Councillor Jasbir Jaspal, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “The opening of the Blue Light Hub at Fallings Park Fire Station is excellent news, further increasing the availability of testing in the city and ensuring that fire and police staff without symptoms of COVID-19 are able to regularly check themselves for the virus.
“This is really important, because COVID-19 is still prevalent in the community and anyone who has it – even if they don’t realise it – risks passing the virus on to friends, family or work colleagues. If they know they have it, they should instead self-isolate which will help break the chain of transmission and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“I’d encourage fire and police staff without symptoms of COVID-19 to attend the Blue Light Hub for a test from next week – and remind the general public that they can get a free test at the Civic Centre any day of the week, as long as they are symptom free. No appointment is necessary and all are welcome.”
Chief Superintendent Andy Beard, Commander at Wolverhampton Police, said: “This is a fantastic local resource, to get quick tests to keep our emergency services running – particularly through the festive period. We look forward to supporting this initiative in the future with Fire Service and City Council."
Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of the Fire Authority and Deputy Mayor of Wolverhampton, added: “This pilot with the City of Wolverhampton Council is another great example of how organisations have responded to the pandemic. We are planning to set up more Blue Light Hubs across the West Midlands in the coming weeks. I would also like to pay tribute to all of the staff who continue to do great work outside of their normal day job to make our communities safer, stronger and healthier during this pandemic.”
The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK. Details of the Tier 3 Very High Alert restrictions currently in place, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at Covid Alert.