Targeted testing in parts of Oldbury and Tipton as variant first discovered in South Africa identified

Extensive surveillance of Covid-19 has identified a case on the border of Oldbury and Tipton of the variant first discovered in South Africa.

Robust contact tracing in partnership with NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England (Midlands) has traced the person’s contacts and asked them to self-isolate.

Sandwell Council, working with NHS Test & Trace, is now setting up a mobile testing unit (MTU) at the Pure Gym car park in Dudley Port for testing people without symptoms.

They will be strongly encouraging people aged 16 and over without symptoms within specific streets in the Oldbury/Tipton border area to take a PCR Covid-19 swab test, even if they are not showing any symptoms.

These include specific streets within the wider DY4 7, DY4 8 and B69 2 postcode areas, in an area loosely between Birmingham Canal in the north, New Birmingham Road in the south, Coneygree Road in the west and Vaughan Trading Estate in the east. See the map at the bottom of this webpage.

The mobile testing unit at the PureGym car park in Dudley Port will open from 10am-3pm tomorrow (Wednesday 17 March) for walk-in tests and booked drive-in tests. A booking system for drive-in appointments will be available on the council’s website later today.

From Thursday (18 March), the mobile testing unit will be open 9am-3pm seven days a week for walk-in tests and booked drive-in appointments.

Go to the council’s testing webpage to check if you’re in the area where you need to get a test and details of how to book.

For anyone who is not online or has questions about the targeted testing in the Oldbury/Tipton border area, please call the Healthy Sandwell team on 0800 011 4656 for advice.

People with symptoms of Covid-19 should continue to book a PCR test in the usual way, via the Government website or by calling 119. They should not attend the testing site at PureGym.

Deputy Council Leader Councillor Maria Crompton said: “I know this news will cause concern. Our priority is to keep our communities and especially our most vulnerable residents safe.

“We are making additional, targeted testing easily available in these specific areas, so we can monitor and control this new variant.

“We are strongly encouraging people to get tested even if they don’t have symptoms.”

Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s director of public health, added: “The more cases of the variant we can find, the better chance we have of suppressing it.

“If you are asked to be tested please, please do take up the offer, it’s quick easy and painless and you’ll be saving lives by doing so.

“Please help to keep your community safe by getting tested so we can protect you and your loved ones.”

There are no additional restrictions or lockdown measures in the Oldbury/Tipton border area – people should continue to follow the Government’s national Stay at Home restrictions and hands-face-space guidance.

Anyone testing positive must self-isolate immediately and pass on details of their contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

Any positive tests will be analysed to identify any further spread, enabling a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of virus in the area.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace, said: “As part of our proactive sequencing work, we have identified cases of Covid-19 variants in a number of areas across England.

“A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community.

“PHE and NHS Test and Trace are monitoring the situation closely and appropriate public health measures such as increased testing and contact tracing are being put in place where necessary.”

Katie Spence Deputy Director at Public Health England Midlands, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant first identified in South Africa here in the Oldbury/Tipton border area.

“I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

It’s more important than ever that if you’ve received your letter inviting you to book your Covid-19 vaccination, you can now book on the NHS website or by calling 119.

The NHS Vaccination Centre at Tipton Sports Academy is now open and even has some appointments available in the next few days. Please do not attend without an appointment.

Map of the area for targeted testing

Further information

• Working in partnership with local authorities, NHS Test and Trace is targeting specific areas where the variant has been found. A list of locations deploying surge testing is available.

• People with symptoms should book a test in the usual way. People without symptoms should visit the council’s testing webpage for more information.

• People should continue to follow the lockdown rules and remember ‘hands, face, space’.

• We know that mutations form a part of the virus cycle and we are well prepared to sequence new variants and assess what action may need to be taken.

• If a person tests positive, has any symptoms, or are contact traced following contact with someone who tests positive, they should self isolate immediately.