Door-to-door surge testing begins in parts of Kirklees on Wednesday as public health chiefs turn the screw on the spread of Covid-19.
Infection levels in Kirklees are at the highest in Savile Town, Thornhill Lees and parts of Dewsbury and that’s where surge testing will be focused.
Public health officials will go door-to-door in Savile Town and Thornhill Lees urging people to get tested to help track the spread.
They will ask anyone over 11 to have a PCR test – and a first dose vaccination will be offered to anyone 18 or over.
Door-knocking could move to other parts of Kirklees, depending on what the data shows.
The move came after another 24 hours of confused messaging when it emerged the Government had changed the guidelines warning people not to travel into or out of Kirklees.
Critics slammed the advice as “lockdown by stealth” but the public has now been told that there are no restrictions on travel.
Amid frustrations in Parliament on Tuesday, Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney urged the Government to drill down into the data.
He pressed vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi in the Commons and said: “My constituents can see the data – where the hotspots are – so when are we going to start using granular data to tackle the outbreak rather than lumping whole council areas into these revised restrictions?”
Rachel Spencer-Henshall, strategic director for public health at Kirklees Council, said: “We’re at a really critical stage of the pandemic.
“Our infection rate in Kirklees has been increasing in the last few weeks and we’re doing everything possible to learn more about the spread of the virus locally and to prevent it.
“We have also had a small number of cases of the new variant, first detected in India, confirmed in the borough which we know spreads more easily. Please be reassured that this variant does not appear to lead to more serious illness.
“Following the Government’s announcement last week, we’ve quickly put together our increased testing plan.
“This increased offer will help us to identify and isolate any further cases of this new variant we might have and can support us in bringing our rate down.
“We’re focusing extra support in areas with the highest rates of infection, including the offer of vaccine appointments. But we are urging anyone who lives or works in Kirklees to play their part and visit one of our PCR testing centres and get tested.
“It’s quick, easy, painless and you’ll be playing a vital role in helping us to understand more about the way the virus is spreading in Kirklees.
“We are using PCR tests so that positive results can be sent to specialist laboratories where they can identify variants of concern, and see where they have spread.
“Thankfully, we’re not seeing a major impact on the number of hospital admissions related to Covid-19 in Kirklees and in the last week we had no deaths linked to the virus. Our main objective is to keep it that way and bringing our infection rate down is how we do this.
“I’m also urging everyone in Kirklees to be extra cautious and stick to all the public guidance.”
Kirklees has set up four new vaccination centres – including Slaithwaite Civic Hall and Clayton West Darby & Joan Club – and mobile PCR testing stations are opening from today.
PCR testing stations will be set up in Honley, Savile Town and Batley. The Honley unit will be sited at Honley Community Centre and it will open from 10am-4pm.
Ms Spencer-Henshall said that vaccinations remained the best way out of the pandemic and added: “Every vaccination matters. We’re working with Government to increase our vaccine offer. The more people that take it, the safer we all are and the sooner we can get back to normality.
“You’ll be contacted when it’s your turn and anyone aged 32 and over in Kirklees can book their vaccination now.
“It’s really important, that even when you have received your vaccine, that you continue to do the basics: hands, face, space as well as letting plenty of fresh air indoors.
“Getting tested regularly is a really effective way we can all prevent the spread of the virus. This is really important even if you have been vaccinated.”
READ MORE: Kirklees infection rate up 35% last week
Kirklees’ Outbreak Control Board – a cross-party group comprising the leading councillors from Kirklees Council’s five main political groups and the borough’s three MPs – issued a statement to clarify what residents should do.
The statement says: “Kirklees continues to follow the roadmap out of restrictions alongside the rest of England.
“Given our high infection rates, we are urging residents and visitors to be cautious but there are no restrictions to travel into and out of Kirklees. Pubs and restaurants remain open for business.
“Deaths and hospitalisations relating to Covid-19 remain low in Kirklees but with rising infection rates, everyone in Kirklees has a part to play in keeping themselves and their community safe.
“That’s why we’re urging people to get tested, stick to the guidance and – above all – to get vaccinated when you are eligible.
“Maintaining social distancing and meeting outdoors are sensible ways of reducing infections but residents can still travel in and out of the borough in line with national restrictions.”