Fire and rescue stations across Lincolnshire could be used as COVID-19 testing sites for public sector workers as local health bosses look to expand asymptomatic screening across the county.
Lincolnshire County Council’s director for public health Professor Derek Ward and his team are also talking to district councils to find testing locations for the general population that are not in Lincoln or Boston.
Existing sites, including one in Sleaford for NHS and public health workers, have tested more than 14,500 people, finding 200 positive cases without symptoms – a positivity rate of 1.4%.
Professor Ward said the aim was to provide a “broad range” of places for asymptomatic testing.
“That will expand the offer, initially for fire and rescue and other public sector staff, but the plan is to try to open those up to the general public as well,” he said.
“It’s about making sure we’ve got the right sites spread across the county and also making sure we have enough testing kits and other resources.”
Currently rapid testing sites are due to stay in place until the end of March, then central government will make further decisions on their future.
Lincolnshire’s health boss also backed national guidance over who should be vaccinated next, as a debate over priority groups rears its head.
As more than 90% of those aged over 70 have received their first jab, police chiefs and teachers unions are among those arguing they should be included further up the waiting list due to their high level of interaction with the community.
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said: “Often it’s officers we’re asking to get called out for concerns for safety, to visit vulnerable people or to attend incidents, whether it’s on the roads or in the home.
“We are absolute reliant on them often to come into very close contact with the public.”
However, Professor Ward said the level of vaccines handed out was “good news for Lincolnshire”.
“We’re doing really well on the assumption that we hit the target for this weekend or early next week to have covered nearly a third of the population, and we’re going to start seeing the benefit of that.”
However, he said the Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation had five other groups already in mind moving down, so that everybody over 50 was vaccinated first.
“If we can get all those groups vaccinated, we will take out 99-point-something percent of the hospital admissions and deaths,” he said.
“I completely understand the arguments [by police and teachers unions] but at the moment we need to focus on everybody over 50 and that’s the government position is, and it’s one I agree with.”
Lincolnshire currently has an infection rate of 158 per 100,000 people, below the national average of 195.
Professor Ward noted that for the over 60s the rate is around 90 and school age children (4-16-year-olds) it is about 80.
Numbers were around the level they were at in the middle of October, he said, but added there was more space to come down further, to the same as around mid-June to August last year.