Everyone in Sheffield could get coronavirus test ‘in coming weeks’, according to health chief

Everyone in Sheffield will “probably” be able to get tested for coronavirus regardless of whether they have symptoms “in the coming weeks”, according to the city’s health chief.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 10:44 am

It follows the news residents in nearby Rotherham can now access tests even if they don’t have symptoms after the town’s director of Public Health said the infection rate there and across South Yorkshire is “still too high” and not coming down as fast as in other areas.

Despite this, Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of Public Health said the city is “nowhere near” a second lockdown despite being identified as in need of ‘enhanced support’ in a secret Government report which was leaked.

The document, which was published by the Guardian on Saturday (11 July), named the city among 20 ‘areas for concern’ in England and as one of three places in need of additional Government help to tackle coronavirus outbreaks. It was based on testing data between 21 June and 4 July.

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An electronic bilboard advises on coronavirus in Sheffield - Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Its publication came just days after Mr Fell warned the city’s infection rate was 'too high with little room for manoeuvre'.

Now he has moved to reassure residents over fears of a Leicester-style lockdown – but said the city’s infection rates are still not “low enough”.

Mr Fell told The Star: “During the middle of last week Sheffield got identified on a list of places where enhanced support was necessary. It was based on a viewing of Government data.

“Since that time period of all the data has changed positively for Sheffield, which is good news. Our rates were reasonably low, but not low enough. It's nowhere near lockdown territory.”

The city’s infection rate for every 100,000 people per week is between 11 and 12, Mr Fell said. The Department of Health and Social Care said it would use a range of data to decide whether to impose further lockdowns but it is understood a threshold of 50 weekly positive tests per 100,000 of the population could trigger special measures.

Mr Fell said: "What's apparent is there's a long tail of the first wave. In Sheffield it's been driven by household transmission.” Outbreaks among people living in "densely packed housing in close-knit communities” where infection can spread quickly have been particularly problematic, Mr Fell said. He added that work is underway to ‘get into these communities’ to do community-based testing and awareness-raising.

A mobile testing unit, which allows people to get a test without an appointment, is now in operation at Sheffield’s Olympic Legacy Park, with more sites in yet-to-be-confirmed locations on the way.

Mr Fell said: “We've accepted that we will have an enhanced strategy to push down the transmission as quickly as we can and we're working with Government to see what they can give us.”

He urged anyone with symptoms, however mild, to get tested.

Mr Fell said: “We are already pushing testing those with symptoms, especially mild symptoms. There's lots of people with symptoms they might not even notice, which is fine for them but might not be fine for their gran.”