Portsmouth's Guildhall reopens as Covid-19 testing centre for asymptomatic critical workers

A testing centre for critical workers without Covid-19 symptoms has opened in the Guildhall, with the first attendees praising the quick and easy-to-use service.

By Richard Lemmer
Monday, 22nd February 2021, 5:22 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd February 2021, 5:26 pm

The community testing site opened its doors this morning, turning the live performance venue into a medical facility that can turn around a test result in under two hours.

The site is open to all critical workers – which covers frontline workers not include in government programmes or private employment testing – with appointments bookable online 24 hours in advance.

Attendees are free to leave after they administer a nasal and throat swab, with results sent via a text message.

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The Guildhall Test Centre in Portsmouth is a rapid test centre for asymptomatic critical workers. Picture: Sarah Standing (220221-3484)

Councillor Matthew Winnington was one of the first people to use the facility, testing negative after going through the 'straightforward’ process.

Cllr Winnington, who is eligible for a test through his work at Solent Mind, said: ‘It was really straightforward, really smooth.

‘There’s been some concern those who work in frontline jobs have not been able to be regularly tested.

‘We want to make sure everyone who is a frontline worker has access to testing.’

James Batney, site manager. Picture: Sarah Standing (220221-3524)

Created thanks to a bid to central government from councils across the area, the centre is one of more than half a dozen across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Cllr Winnington added: ‘We were keen to have a community testing centre in Portsmouth as we’re a densely populated area, and testing is vital to getting the spread of the disease under control.’

Figures suggest that one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms – potentially spreading the disease without knowing it.

Kerry Wright, 30, from Gosport. Picture: Sarah Standing (220221-3555)

For Natalie Morgan, a Portsmouth City Council social worker, the testing would provide even more peace of mind for families she has to visit.

She said: ‘We can be the only people coming into a family’s home, they might not be seeing anyone else.

‘Of course we have PPE and stick to social distancing, but testing gives people additional peace of mind.’

Picture: Sarah Standing (220221-3592)

Testing is available for those who have received a Covid-19 vaccine and critical workers are advised to be tested twice a week.

Helen Atkinson, director of public health at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘I know it may seem like a big ask – to attend twice a week for testing when you feel fine – but it's one of the most important contributions you can now make during this pandemic to help you and your family and your entire community get back to normal as soon as possible.’

The council is looking to extend community testing with home testing kits for asymptomatic people.

There are two symptomatic testing sites in Portsmouth which are open seven days a week at Eldon car park and at Northarbour Road.

Appointments at the Guildhall centre are available from 8am to 8pm every day.

Tests can be booked online at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/covid-testing.

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