A new COVID-19 testing centre will open in Derry today as current facilities struggle to cope with growing demand.
Templemore Sports Complex will be home to the latest testing unit in a city which has witnessed transmission rates rise exponentially in recent weeks.
Yesterday the Derry News navigated the booking process to see if any appointments were available at designated sites in the city.
Early in the morning the system said that no tests were available either at drive-through or walk in sites.
Around lunchtime eight slots were available to book at a drive through mobile unit 11.7 miles away in Strabane.
And before 4pm no appointments were on offer and you were advised to try again in a few hours.
Testing for essential workers and the general public is currently conducted in a fixed drive-through site operating at the LYCRA Company Car park at Maydown.
There is a walk-in site at on the at Ulster University’s Magee campus - this mobile test centre will alternate each week between the Magee campus and the university's Coleraine campus.
Another facility was established in August at Gransha Park for the testing of Western Trust staff, household contacts of staff and elective patients.
A Public Health Agency (PHA) spokesperson yesterday confirmed that the latest addition at Templemore Sports Complex will open today, October 8.
Testing had to be ramped up in Derry following a surge in positive cases and widespread community transmission which cannot be attributed to any specific area or places of work.
As of yesterday 34,117 tests have been carried out in Derry and Strabane – the fourth highest of all council areas.
The council area has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the North.
Department of Health figures showed that Derry and Strabane had 197 new cases yesterday.
In the space of a week cases have jumped from around 1,000 to 2,010.
Of 959 positive cases in the past seven days in the council area, 727 of them are aged between 20 and 59.
The rate of transmission per 100k of population in Derry is twice that of Belfast, now sitting at 636.5.
Altnagelvin Hospital has admitted 20 COVID positive inpatients, a figure which has almost doubled since Friday.
‘FIT FOR PURPOSE’
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson said their offices have been ‘inundated’ with concerns over testing lately.
The party has launched a survey to hear people’s views and experiences of the COVID-19 testing process in the north.
Derry MLA Martina Anderson said: “We have launched a new survey to gather people’s views and experiences of the COVID-19 testing process in the north.
“Our offices have been inundated with concerns over testing in recent weeks, including the bizarre situation where people have been directed to England or Scotland for a test.
“We have now hit record numbers of COVID-19 infection and key to identifying community transmission and halting the spread of the virus is increased testing.
“The Health Minister has a responsibility to ensure the testing system is fit for purpose and working properly and that the health service has the capacity to work effectively over the winter months.”
A PHA spokesperson said there is currently ‘high demand’ for tests and to only book if you have symptoms of COVID-19, which are a new continuous cough, or a high temperature, or a change in sense of taste or smell.
He said: “Bookings for all COVID-19 test sites are made through the Department Of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) national testing programme online portal or via the 119 testing helpline.
“Bookings can be made for your nearest test centre, or at the next nearest test centre if there is no capacity at your first choice site.
“Anyone who tries to book a test and is unable to do so, or who is offered a location or time which is not convenient, is encouraged to please wait a few hours and then try again.
“There is currently a high demand for tests but more appointments and home testing kits are available nationally every day.
“From 8am it is possible to book tests for 1pm until site closing that day.
“You can only book tests for the following day’s testing from 6pm. This allows available bookings up to 1pm the next day.
“The PHA website has information on testing at www.pha.site/cvtesting
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