Thanks to the brilliant work of Gloucestershire clinicians, the number of COVID patients in the county’s intensive care units is now down to four. And whilst we all mourn the loss of life, I am so grateful to medical staff for the many hundreds of patients who have been successfully treated and are now back home with their loved ones.
In this second phase, as we carefully emerge from lockdown, hunting down the virus and containing it is mission critical. The so-called ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy is centred around testing, tracking and isolating - in other words, identifying localised flare-ups and containing them.
In recent days, over 20,000 contact tracers have been recruited, including 7,500 healthcare workers. They have massively expanded our ability to counter-attack against the virus. I am aware of people in Cheltenham who have signed up, and I am so grateful. They will help trace an individual’s last known movements, to establish who they may have been in contact with, so that containment measures can be taken.
The plan also relies on increased testing. The UK’s national testing capacity has surged over recent weeks and is now high by international standards. A mobile testing unit has been set up on the Oxtalls campus in Gloucester, operated by the Armed Forces. This provides additional capacity to the testing facilities for health and care staff already being run by the NHS on the Gloucester Business Park.
All those in care homes, whether they are symptomatic or not, are eligible for a test, as is everyone over the age of five with symptoms. You can also apply on behalf of someone you live with, if they have symptoms.
Meanwhile, I will also be working to ensure that those test results are returned as quickly as possible.
You can request a test online by visiting gov.uk/coronavirus.