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Staying safe as free COVID-19 testing ends

Staying safe as free COVID-19 testing ends
31 March 2022

Photo: Darren Cattell, Chief Executive (second from left) with members of the COVID-19 test centre team.

With access to free testing ending for most people from Friday 1 April, we urge the community to remember hands, face and space, to keep safe and well from COVID-19.

At a local authority conference last week*, Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer said: “Covid cases are now rising quite rapidly – from quite a high base – and this is driven by a number of different factors, of which BA.2, the new Omicron variant is a large part. Rates are high and rising in virtually all parts of England.”

Despite the changes for members of the public, the infection prevention and control measures for healthcare settings, including St. Mary’s Hospital and its community based locations remain in place. This includes the requirement to wear a face mask when attending an appointment or visiting a loved one. COVID-19 marshals will also remain at the hospital main entrances to support people in accessing a face mask and sanitising their hands before entering.

To date, we have asked that those who are visiting a loved one, to take a lateral flow test 24 hours prior to visiting. However, in light of the test no longer being free, we now ask that those who are feeling unwell, including cold and flu like symptoms, a new cough, a high temperature, loss of taste or smell, diarrhoea or vomiting, please do not visit, until you feel better.

Visiting restrictions are under review, however, from Friday 1 April they will remain the same with patients being able to have a daily visitor for up to an hour. This applies to all wards, except the Intensive Care Unit, where the hospital cares for the most vulnerable patients.

Juliet Pearce, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and AHPs said: “Our hospital and community locations look after vulnerable individuals and it is vital that we continue our important infection prevention measures and even more so now that people won’t be able to test so easily. Our frontline staff will continue to test twice weekly to keep those in our care safe.

“We urge the community to continue to follow the important steps of hands, face and space, to protect themselves and others. Those 3 simple steps can prevent illness and transmission.

“As COVID-19 measures change again, we would like to thank everyone who has followed the guidance and come forward for their vaccinations. Those actions have made a positive difference to our community.”

In addition to members of the public being unable to order free lateral flow tests, the Island’s test centre will be closed from Friday 1 April.

At the start of the pandemic 1Leisure Medina became the Island’s first test centre in April 2020, initially opening for NHS staff only on 25 April 2020, before becoming a permanent fixture for the Island community. In August 2020 the test centre moved to Newclose cricket ground where it has remained until today.

Darren Cattell, Chief Executive said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved with the Island’s COVID-19 test centre, including NHS staff, council and public health colleagues, military personnel and volunteers. As with our frontline NHS heroes, these individuals have worked tirelessly to support our community and they have been an integral part of our response to COVID-19 over the last 2 years. Thank you each and every one of you.”

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