This is adding to the pressure, meaning that those who need tests may face delays or significant travel, with a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board hearing that there have been cases of children from the south of the county having to go to Galashiels.
Providing her Covid-19 update on Thursday, September 10, director of public health, Liz Morgan, said this was ‘clearly not ideal’, while Cllr Susan Dungworth called it ‘unacceptable’.
“We have done some rough analysis on our own data, because the last couple of weeks we have been getting the data not just on positive tests, but on negative tests,” Ms Morgan reported.
“That has been a real eye-opener, because our initial interrogation has highlighted to us is that in Northumberland, about a third of tests have been undertaken in people with no symptoms, and that’s even taking out tests in hospitals and tests we know have been undertaken as part of the routine care-home testing process.
“This is people in the community who are getting themselves tested with no symptoms. We also know there are higher rates of individuals getting tested with no symptoms in our more affluent areas.
“This is the worried well requesting tests when they have no symptoms and, of course, the testing process is designed for people who have symptoms.
“So part of the reason why the testing process is under such a lot of pressure is because we have a large proportion of the population who are getting tested unnecessarily.
“There are individuals who are getting themselves tested every week. There are some people who have had over a dozen tests and for all of those tests, they’ve had no symptoms.
“If one message comes out of the meeting today, it’s to emphasise that the testing process is for people who are symptomatic. Outside of those care-home testing processes, it is not there for people who do not have any symptoms.
“Neither can a test shorten your quarantine period if you’re coming back from one of those countries which requires you to do so.”
Ms Morgan also told the meeting that work is ongoing to provide testing sites in Ashington and Blyth, ‘because we know that those are areas where testing uptake is not quite as high as we would like it to be’.
Cllr Dungworth has raised this on a number of occasions at previous metings, and she remains concerned that there is still no timescale for these sites to be up and running.
“If the numbers are already higher from those areas, we know that community transmission is well and truly established now, so the numbers I would suggest are higher than those we currently have, because of the lack of easy access to testing,” she said.
“It’s just not good enough and I know it’s not down to us, it’s not a criticism of what our staff are doing, which, under the circumstances, is absolutely amazing, but we need to keep putting pressure on the Government about the testing situation.
“We’ve been in this mess since February and it doesn’t seem like it’s been sorted whatsoever. We’re fast heading into winter with transmission rising and it’s really scary.”