Taxi firms could offer lateral flow tests to revellers on the way home as part of new plans to tackle Lincoln’s high infection rates.
Health bosses have revealed a series of new pilots, to begin in the next couple of days, which will see shops on the High Street offer the tests, a roving mobile testing unit on the newly-opened Cornhill space and a community outreach team heading out to speak to people on the street.
Lincoln continues to have high infection rates and sits at the top of the table nationally, with its own rate having risen from 568 at the beginning of the week to 751 on Friday. The national average is 282.
Two thirds of the 742 cases in the past seven days have been in the 18-30 age groups.
Plans to tackle the numbers include working with the City of Lincoln Council’s licensing team to get taxi drivers to offer riders a lateral flow test as they drop them off at their destination.
Natalie Liddle, from Public Health Lincolnshire, said they did not want to demonise the younger generation but there was lots of work being done to increase accessibility and awareness of safety measures.
She said: “What we don’t want to do is blame our younger people because, if anything, we owe a great debt to them for the last 20 months.
“They have been isolating, furloughed, missing their education, and that was all to protect our older population so I think there’s a balanced message now to try and encourage and support the wider community, that final cohort of people, to come forward.”
The aim instead is to encourage younger people to take responsibility for their own safety, and that of others. This can include doing an LFT while you get ready to go out and remembering to take masks and sanitiser, as well as keep socially distanced where possible.
Natalie added: “That’s not to say that it’s being enforced and that you have to wear those things but you actually may get into a situation where you feel, personally, uncomfortable, and therefore that protection will be something of a comfort to you on your night out, but enjoy yourself, enjoy the fact that you, you have that opportunity to mix we’ve not had that for 20 months and that’s really really important.”
As part of the work being carried out a number of retailers on the High Street will stock free lateral flow tests.
The roving unit will be at the Cornhill location Monday to Friday next week from 10am-3pm.
Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will also be asked to help amplify the messages about getting tested and getting the vaccine, via their venues and their social media channels.
Figures released by the NHS yesterday showed one-in-four people under the age of 30 still had not had the vaccine.
As part of the plans, vaccine pop-up centres could also be held, though details are still to be confirmed.
Natalie said the main message at the moment to all age groups was to get that second dose when available.
She said the many of the venues in the city had been pro-active in protecting themselves from viral outbreaks. However, early reports indicated that a nightclub in the city was the location for a number of cases.
She could not say when numbers would start to look better, but added that volatity was expected, especially come autumn and winter as children go back to school.
She said: “The main message is if we can get that vaccination programme where we where we want it to be, if we can get everybody vaccinated, then of course the impact is much less and we won’t be seeing people that are being hospitalised, really poorly or, indeed, dying.”