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High Covid rate a 'wake-up call' for Middlesbrough

National lockdown: Stay at home. You must not leave your home unless necessary. Find out what you can and cannot do.

Middlesbrough’s Covid infection rate is currently among the highest in the country.

This comes at a time the Council has introduced extra testing after a case of the Covid variant first discovered in South Africa was reported.

Everyone over 16 who lives in the Coulby Newham or Marton areas, or regularly visits the Parkway Centre, is encouraged to get a test at the unit in car park 2 of the Parkway Centre, opposite KFC. The postcode is TS8 0TW.

The centre is open Thursday and Friday (February 18 and 19) between 9am and 3pm. There is no requirement to book in advance, but those being tested must register their details using a barcode provided at the site. Extra staff are now working at the site to reduce waiting times.

South Tees Joint Director of Public Health Mark Adams has today given an update on the position in Middlesbrough.

What’s the current Covid situation in Middlesbrough?

Our rate is concerning at present. As of Wednesday it was 292 per 100,000 of population and last weekend Middlesbrough did have the highest infection rate in the country. What I would say is our rate has come down a lot from the peak in early January of 676, but it isn’t falling as quickly as in some other areas.

Why do you think Middlesbrough’s rate is so high?

Different boroughs have seen their infection rates rise and fall at different times and we don’t yet fully understand all the reasons. Middlesbrough’s higher population density could well be a factor. The more people that come into contact with each other in any setting, the more likely Covid will spread. There are a whole range of factors linked to deprivation and demographics that can influence the situation. What’s important is that we monitor it extremely closely and do all we can to protect one another.

How have the public responded to the extra testing in Coulby Newham?

The early numbers have been really encouraging. In the region of 2,000 people came forward for tests during the first three days the site opened. Regardless of variants, extra testing helps us understand more about the spread. And the more people we can find that need to isolate, the better chance we have of driving the rate down further.

I’d continue to encourage anyone who lives in or around Coulby Newham and Marton, or regularly visits the Parkway Centre, to come forward for a test in the car park opposite KFC, between 9am and 3pm. At the moment the site will be there up to and including Friday. We’ll update people later this week if that will be extended.

For everyone else around Middlesbrough, it’s crucial that they book a free test online or by calling 119 should they develop symptoms. We have lots of testing capacity in the town. It’s so important that people respond to symptoms.

People hear a lot about social distancing and hands, face, space. Do you have any specific advice to people in relation to Middlesbrough’s current rate?

If anything our high numbers should act as a wake-up call. It’s been a long haul for everyone, but it’s true that the basic public health advice still stands. Stay at home as much as possible. Definitely work at home if you can. And consider carefully whether you really need to pop to the shop as often. Every time someone leaves home they need to be aware that the more contact they have with people they don’t live with, the more likely they are to be infected or infect someone else.

One thing I must stress is the importance of isolating should someone test positive or be identified as a contact.

If you tested positive tomorrow, would you be ‘isolation ready’? Do you have what you need at home? Is there someone nearby who could leave things at your door? Test, test, test was an early mantra of lockdown but isolate, isolate, isolate is the crucial aspect. That’s how we stop the spread and prevent the infection being passed on to someone who is at high risk.

Middlesbrough Council has worked really hard to extend the Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support payments. We have a local scheme that is able to support people to isolate where isolation may cause difficulties financially, but they don’t meet the national criteria. The information is available on the Test and Trace Self-Isolation Support Payment page.

I’d like to again thank the overwhelming majority of people for following the rules. But we all must respect the rules and not come up with reasons to bend them. Every time someone breaks the rules they risk setting off a chain reaction that leaves people infected and potentially requiring hospital treatment or worse.

I know it’s tempting as the weather improves ever so slightly to venture further afield and have a day out, but that shouldn’t be happening now. Life isn’t yet ready to return to normal. The rules are in place to protect us all and the sooner we can get our rates down the sooner things will be relaxed.

How many contacts would you expect a general Covid case to infect?

The numbers of contacts a positive case will have obviously depends on their circumstances and routines.

What is clear is that the virus can spread quickly and disrupt many lives. A small number of infections can soon lead to lots of people requiring to isolate.

People who can’t work from home are more likely to come into contact with a higher number of people. That is why we’re encouraging them to come forward for regular, rapid tests at one of our community sites. We know the virus spreads quickly among close contacts and therefore everything we can do to find cases and support them and their close contacts to isolate is important.

Testing in Middlesbrough

The Parkway Centre test site was set up in direct response to the case of the South African variant. All those aged over 16 in the Marton and Coulby Newham areas, or people who regularly visit the centre, are encouraged to have a test, even if they don’t have symptoms.

The following sites in Middlesbrough offer testing for anyone with symptoms of Covid-19:

  • Cannon Park (Drive-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
  • Teesside University Printworks car park, Woodlands Road (Walk-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
  • Ormesby Road, Pallister Park (Walk-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
  • Viewley Centre car park, Hemlington (Drive-through, Monday – Tuesday, 9am-3pm)
  • Cargo Fleet Lane (Drive-through currently Wednesday – Sunday, 9am-3pm).

The symptoms of Covid-19 are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss/change to the sense of smell or taste. Tests should be booked via the NHS website or by calling 119.

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

Community testing

In addition to testing for those with symptoms, Middlesbrough Council is currently offering free rapid tests for people without symptoms. This testing is particularly aimed at those who can’t work from home and therefore come into contact with more people.

One in three people with Covid-19 do not display symptoms. Community testing can help find more people who are infected to help to stop the spread.

Testing is available at Middlesbrough Sports Village Wednesday – Sunday, North Ormesby Hub Monday – Friday and Newport Hub Tuesday – Saturday.

Community tests can be booked via the community testing page.