Test centre closes, but will return later this week

‘But why can’t we have a permanent one?’

The Isle of Wight coronavirus testing centre in the grounds of Medina College put up its barriers this afternoon (Monday) after three days of activity.

But the centre, and the way tests were carried out, left some people bemused, and wondering why a permanent centre could not be put into operation on the Island. The test centre will return to the Island on April 29 for three days, with 409 people tested over the last three days.

One regular IW Observer reader, who preferred not to be named, but gave us his details, explained the procedure when he and his partner were tested.

He also questioned why a permanent testing centre could not be set up on the Island, when only about 10 soldiers ran the whole operation, and there were just four gazebos and a few tables, along with the testing kits at the car park in Medina College.

This key worker booked an appointment by phone the previous day, after feeling he may have suffered mild symptoms. When asked about his partner being tested, he was informed that if they lived together she MUST also take the test.

The key worker said: “We were sent details by email, one of them being that mobile phones must be switched off on site, and windows of the car must remain closed. But when we entered the centre, the first thing we were confronted with was a soldier, holding up a placard with a mobile number on it, and telling us to ring it, which we did, and spoke the the soldier standing next to our car, to confirm our appointment.

“Then we were rather surprised to see no mobile testing vehicle on site, but only four gazebos, half a dozen trestle tables, and maybe about 10 soldiers.

“We made our way to the first check point, where we were told to call another number, and spoke to the soldier standing outside the car. He explained how we would be ‘self testing ourselves’ and told us other relevant information. He put the test boxed test kits through a window in the car. We were then ushered to a car parking spot, to carry out the self-testing. I have to say we were surprised we would be self-testing.”

The key worker continued: “We carried out the testing with a swab, into the back of the throat and up the nose; put it into a tube, and put a bar code on it, and placed it in a plastic bag. Once complete, we were then ushered to the last two gazebos, again spoken to by phone by a soldier outside the car, and told to put the tests, which were in a plastic bag inside a testing box, into a large plastic bag which was being held by another soldier outside out car.

“Naturally we had to lower the window to do this, as we did to receive the kits, and had been told beforehand to be sure not to drop the kit onto the ground, and not to make any contact with the soldier. That done, we were on our way, about 15 minutes after arriving.”

The man added: “Although the procedure was carried out very thoroughly and carefully, surely with such small soldier power, and with such basic facilities, a permanent testing centre could be set up on the Island, rather than have one here for just three days.”

An Isle of Wight spokesperson confirmed this evening: “The mobile testing station has now finished work and has moved off the Island. It is due to return to 1Leisure Medina later this week on Wednesday, April 29, Thursday, April 30 and Friday May 1. The mobile facility is part of the national network of facilities provided by the Department of Health and Social Care, and is intended to rotate across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and cover symptomatic key workers from communities where it is more difficult to access some of the ‘permanent’ testing facilities, like the one in Portsmouth.

“Over the three days the station was open, every eligible person who made an appointment for a test was offered one. The unit has a capacity of up to 200 tests per day, and a total of 409 people were tested over the three days. On no day was the testing station fully used, so there was always spare capacity if needed.

“It is also important to appreciate that this is part of a developing response, and that as well as the mobile unit, other solutions may become available for Island people to have tests performed without having to go to Portsmouth. Details of these will be announced as soon as they are available. A central government testing initiative using the postal service has been launched, with a limited number of tests per day.”

Full information in relation to how essential workers can access testing in this way can be found on the government website: https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/