The drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry is to become a regional testing centre as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS and other key workers, the Department of Health & Social Care has announced.

The site sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK, and is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers.

This follows the launch of the Government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rollout of the network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK, with 29 regional testing sites opened to date.

This network will provide thousands more PCR swab tests - which are used to identify if you currently have the virus - for critical key workers, starting with NHS front line staff. This means those who test negative for coronavirus can return to work as soon as possible, and those who test positive are able to recover.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “The Government is rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.

“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff and other key workers need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.

“This is a national effort and we are proud to be working with a number of partners to turn this ambition into a reality and roll out additional capacity to where it is needed.”

Professor John Newton, National Coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our 5-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff and other frontline workers who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.”

“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day across the UK by the end of the month.”

The testing centre is being operated in partnership with Sodexo. Those tested will receive their results within a few days.

Stuart Cain, Chief Executive of the Ricoh Arena, said: “Wasps and the Ricoh Arena have always tried to play a big part in the local community so it was a pretty easy decision when approached to help.  We’ve worked really well with the Coventry & Warwickshire Health & Care Partnership as well as Coventry City Council and really shown what we can do in a short period of time to support the region.

“Everybody knows where the Ricoh Arena is, so it makes sense to set up the centre at such an accessible location.  Hopefully the Testing Centre will be a major help to all those who are working so selflessly to keep the population safe at such a difficult time.”

A spokesperson for the Coventry & Warwickshire Health & Care Partnership said: “We are delighted to be able to facilitate a coordination between our NHS partners, our local authority partner Coventry City Council, and the Ricoh Arena. The speed and efficiency with which all parties have collaborated is a brilliant example of effective partnership working and is something which we are delighted will now benefit local health and care workers engaged in the fight against COVID-19, as well as the wider community.”

Sean Haley, regional chair of Sodexo UK & Ireland said: “Sodexo teams have moved quickly to set up COVID-19 testing centres as part of  the industry-wide effort  to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coventry site becoming a regional testing centre will mean more frontline NHS and other staff can be tested and cleared to provide care to those who need it most. I am proud of our colleagues who are working together with pace and dedication to support the NHS."

The Government is also urgently working on setting up a home-testing service for critical key workers, supported by Amazon's logistics network and other commercial partners.

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