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Bracknell Forest Council formally requests surge testing

PCR machine

Bracknell Forest Council has officially requested that surge testing is deployed across specific parts of the borough given the rising rate of Delta variant COVID-19 cases.

The council is in discussion with both Public Health England and the government around the need for surge testing locally as the borough’s case rate has risen from 5.7 per 100,000 on 20 May to 96.3 on 4 June and the Delta variant is the most dominant locally.

A number of cases of the Delta variant (VOC 21-APR-02, first detected in India) are linked to schools and all impacted schools have taken immediate action and have been working with PHE to notify all relevant contacts.

However, we are aware of an increasing number of cases in the borough that have spread through wider community transmission rather than through a contained outbreak.

The council yesterday (Wednesday) submitted a formal request to start surge testing as soon as practically possible to help try and reduce the spread.

A decision on this should be made in the next couple of days and, if agreed, it would take us a few more days to arrange it safely and efficiently.

Residents do not need to order tests from GOV.UK or 119 unless they have symptoms. If agreed, only those in the surge testing area will be asked to do a PCR test, which will be available to pick up at local dedicated sites or through relevant employers or schools  – not by 119 or GOV.UK. This is so that all PCR tests can be checked specifically for the variant.

Residents are advised to keep an eye on this website and social media for updates on this. However, if agreed, we will proactively communicate what is happening, when and who should test by a range of ways.

Charlotte Pavitt, Consultant in Public Health at Bracknell Forest Council, said:

“We have been keeping a very close watch on the case rate in the borough and it’s clear that in recent days it is starting to rise steadily again and the majority of these cases are the Delta variant – which is much more transmissible.

“We have requested via Public Health England to start surge testing in areas of increased transmission within the borough to understand more about the spread and try to contain it as much as possible, to safeguard our residents and borough from further transmission.

“Thankfully, our hospital admission rates are not rising at the same rate which means people are not becoming as seriously ill as before. However, if dominant variants aren’t suppressed it can have an impact on the vaccination’s efficacy so it’s vital that we reduce the spread.

“Alongside the surge testing we are working with our NHS colleagues to make vaccination even more accessible to those eligible and would encourage individuals to come forward for both their first and second doses as soon as they are offered them.” 

Surge testing is already being offered in the RG1 3, RG1 5, RG1 6 and RG1 7 postcodes in Reading and in the Bulmershe and Whitegates, Evendons, Norreys, and Wescott areas of Wokingham. If any Bracknell Forest resident works in any of these areas they are strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 PCR test, whether they are showing symptoms or not. You can find out more from Wokingham Borough Council and Reading Borough Council.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the risk of catching COVID-19 is to keep following the rules, which our residents have been following diligently since the pandemic started:

  • stay at least two metres (three steps) away from people you're not meeting with – you can choose to have close contact with friends and family, see advice about meeting friends and family safely on GOV.UK
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • let fresh air into your home by opening windows, doors and air vents as much as possible
  • wear a face covering where necessary 

Residents are strongly advised to book in their vaccination if they are eligible and make sure they go for their second dose – vaccination is one of the best lines of defence against becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Cllr Paul Bettison OBE, Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said:

“Bracknell Forest residents have been diligent in following the rules throughout the pandemic and so I’d like to thank everyone who has been doing all they can to protect themselves, their loved ones and our community.

“The Delta variant is now the most dominant locally and so we need to make sure we all continue to follow the rules, continue testing and go for vaccinations when eligible – this is the best line of defence against becoming seriously ill and spreading the virus.”