North Tyneside Council is helping keep fire fighters safe and in work during the pandemic.
The local authority has supported Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in setting up their own testing site for their teams in the borough.
After training and advice from the council, Wallsend and Tynemouth fire stations now benefit from rapid testing sites, where symptom-free fire fighters and support staff can access twice-weekly tests.
With results back within an hour, the testing aims to quickly identify those with the virus, but without symptoms, who could unwittingly pass it on to others.
Wendy Burke, North Tyneside Director of Public Health: “We are delighted to have supported and provided training so the fire service could set up its own in-house rapid testing.
“It is essential we ensure members of the blue light services can continue to carry out their vital roles during the pandemic and do so safely – and rapid testing has a role to play in helping them to do so.
“Up to a third of people with COVID-19 may not display symptoms but are still infectious and can spread the virus – this testing will help to prevent outbreaks within the fire service and the wider community.
“It’s important that everyone remembers that even if someone tests negative, they continue to follow public health and government advice.”
Peter Heath Deputy Chief Fire Officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service added: “Rapid testing is a key strand in enhancing health surveillance in our workforce. We introduced lateral flow testing at our Service Headquarters in February, and we are delighted with the support of North Tyneside Council and the Director of Public Health, to introduce rapid flow testing at our fire stations in Wallsend and Tynemouth.
“This is a key step for us to support our firefighters and staff for their safety and ensuring that we maintain our ability to keep responding. Our robust risk assessments, appropriate PPE and following of the guidance from the Government are all key to keeping our workforce safe.”
The news comes as the council’s rapid community testing site in North Tyneside is extended for anyone without symptoms who can’t work from home.
Initially in place six weeks, it has now been extended and is available for those who don’t have access to their own workplace testing – and those using it so far have included postal workers, bank staff, bus and taxi drivers, nursery workers, carers, journalists and more.
The site is located at the Riverside Centre, North Shields, and is open seven days a week. Opening times vary and appointments must be booked in advance at www.bookwhen.com/northtyneside.
Testing for people with symptoms remains in place for everyone in the borough.
Anyone with symptoms, which includes a new continuous cough, change or loss of smell or taste and/or a temperature, should self-isolate immediately and book a test via www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119.