Wokingham Borough Council is continuing to take a leading role in its Covid-19 response; ensuring that widespread asymptomatic testing helps to keep residents safe by finding unknown cases, that everyone has the support they need to be able to self-isolate properly and that everyone who is eligible has access to the vaccine.
The council was one of the first local authorities in Berkshire to set-up lateral flow testing sites for asymptomatic residents back in December, with three static hubs now open. It was also the first to roll out mobile rapid testing units in March, using intelligence around cases and testing uptake to understand the best places to locate these in the borough. 18,800+ tests have been completed to date.
Anyone who tests positive will need to follow self-isolation rules, as this is crucial for stopping the spread of the virus. To help residents during self-isolation, the council set-up an effective test and trace programme at the start of the year, with the team making over 1,300 calls to self-isolating residents. It is also working closely with the voluntary sector to arrange help for residents while self-isolating.
In fact, over 220 people have been referred to One Front Door, a service led by Citizens Advice Wokingham in partnership with the council and local voluntary sector organisations, for additional support. Whether it is arranging food or medicine deliveries, or simply finding someone to walk the dog, this service is making it easier for people to stay at home and reduce transmission of the virus.
The test and trace team are now also following up with residents three days into their self-isolation to ensure they are complying and have everything they need.
Charles Margetts, executive member for adult social care and wellbeing, said: “Self-isolation is by no means easy, but it’s crucial for stopping the spread of Covid-19.
“Our weekly cases are now at similar levels to what they were in September, and it’s important that we keep going with the right behaviours to keep them down. Getting into the habit of twice-weekly testing as part of our everyday lives will help us all to play our part and do what we can to keep each other safe. Especially as we begin to spend more time with our loved ones in line with restrictions easing.
“We’ve really stepped up our efforts in this area to make it as easy as possible for residents to get tested. At the beginning of February, we had two testing centres located at our Shute End office and the Microsoft Campus; and we’ve since added an additional static hub at Sindlesham Court, as well as mobile testing units at Waitrose Twyford, Asda Lower Earley and Woodley Town Centre.”
While the NHS is leading on the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the council has been supporting with practical elements such as car parking, gritting, signage and heating at vaccination clinics. Now, its teams are working on a pilot with local GPs to reach eligible residents in cohorts 1-9 who have not been vaccinated yet.
The council will help to remove any barriers that may be preventing them from being vaccinated. For instance, working with the voluntary sector to provide transport to and from clinics, or assisting with caring responsibilities. There will also be joint working to support concerns about the vaccine.
Last month, the council also supported NHS colleagues and community members to set-up a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Aisha Mosque in Lower Earley, to help improve vaccine take-up amongst the British Pakistani community in the borough.
“The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is the biggest vaccination programme in history, and we have been impressed with the efforts of our NHS colleagues,” said Charles Margetts. “Data up to 3 May tells us that over 89,100 people in the borough have had their first dose of the vaccine, and over 33,700 their second.
“We are taking a targeted and intelligent approach to improve uptake and reduce transmission rates, working in partnership with the Berkshire West CCG to get the vaccine out to everyone who is eligible.”