Plans to move Covid-19 testing site in Sunderland to improve accessibility

Plans to close a Covid-19 testing site and relocate it north of the River Wear have been revealed by public health bosses.

By Chris Binding
Friday, 11th June 2021, 5:22 pm

Several walk-through testing sites were previously set up across Sunderland during the coronavirus pandemic to improve access in certain areas.

However increased availability of testing, including the ability to order tests online, has led health bosses to review some physical city sites.

At a council scrutiny panel this week, Sunderland City Council’s public health officials confirmed they were looking set up a testing site in North Hylton.

Covid-19 local testing centre, Hendon

As a result of the move, the testing centre at Commercial Road in Hendon is expected to close.

Public health bosses said the changes are based on the need for testing facilities, rather than case rates, with an exact site to be confirmed in North Hylton in due course.

“We did have a feeling that the north of the city, at various times, has had a need for more testing access than it had,” said Kath Bailey, public health specialist at Sunderland City Council.

“They just didn’t have the same level of accessibility because they didn’t have a physical site on their patch, we’ve wanted to put something in place in the north for a while.

“We’ve got the opportunity to do that now so we’re going to take that chance, it’s not that the rates are particularly much higher, that’s not what it’s about.

“We’re just aware that the need is greater there than it might be in other parts of the city.”

The public health officer was responding to a question from councillor Dominic McDonough at Wednesday’s (June 9) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

Councillor Martin Haswell also asked whether demand had dropped to justify the closure of the Commercial Road site and whether it was worth keeping both Hendon and North Hylton sites open.

Public health specialist Kath Bailey, responding, said the way that people have accessed testing has “changed significantly” as the pandemic has progressed.

She explained: “We’re just seeing less demand through the sites, I think we had a particular site where we had only seen maybe a dozen people come forward.

“There are alternatives now in terms of picking up [tests] from a pharmacy or indeed having tests delivered to your home.

“So we don’t need the number of physical sites but we had an opportunity to put something in place where I think we hadn’t had as good access before.

“So we’re looking at what opportunities are available to us and then trying to place them in the most appropriate place for this moment in time.”

The rate of cases per 100,000 of the population is now at 41.8 compared to just 14.0 the week before.

Health chiefs are now urging the people of Sunderland to continue to follow basic guidance around hands, face, space and fresh air.

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