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Oxfordshire residents to continue to follow the rules as schools go back

Residents in Oxfordshire are being reminded that they should continue to follow national regulations and take part in any symptom-free testing scheme they can as the country enters the first part (step one) of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Changes this week to lockdown measures include schools and colleges opening to all students and residents in some care homes being allowed a nominated visitor.

Reported new cases of COVID-19 in Oxfordshire are now below a rate of 50 per 100,000 population – putting the county in a great position to support children returning to school this week.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “We are seeing cases now falling across all age groups in the county, which is really reassuring to see. This puts us in an excellent position as the government begins to implement its roadmap out of lockdown.

“Seeing young people finally able to return to school is an incredibly reassuring first step. It’s been clear that the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on young people, with both their mental wellbeing and their learning impacted by not being at school.

“Although there are now additional steps in place to protect teachers, other school staff, young people and their families, such as testing, I must remind residents that it is inevitable that, with schools going back, it is likely that we will see a small spike in cases once more. It’s crucial that we continue the great progress we have made by following government rules for each roadmap stage. We are still in lockdown.

“This includes not mixing with households – apart from meeting with one other person outside for socially distanced exercise, staying at home apart unless absolutely necessary, including to continue to work from home where possible, and adhering to all the guidance around washing our hands, keeping our distance from others and wearing a mask. Even if you have had your vaccination, you must remember that you need two doses to receive the maximum protection against the virus, and you may still be able to pass the virus onto loved ones and those around you who may not have had it.

“Testing remains crucial in our fight against COVID-19. You should continue to make use of any symptom-free testing programme you are eligible for – through your school, workplace, our symptom-free testing facilities, or the government’s home testing scheme to protect yourself and those around you.

“If we let our guard down now, it could be all too easy for cases to rise sharply once more, as we saw back in the autumn. A third wave is still possible if we let our guard down too soon. With vaccinations continuing at such speed, we are so close now, and we can all do our bit to get us over that line.”

To support the return to school, the government is encouraging all households with primary and secondary school and college-aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles, to start regular twice-weekly rapid lateral flow testing.

Adults in these households who are workers or volunteers in a public facing role can get tested at one of the county council’s symptom-free sites, which are Spiceball Leisure Centre (Banbury), The Beacon (Wantage), The King’s Centre (Oxford). If they are not eligible for this programme, they can order tests online for home delivery.

They can also collect up to two packs of home test kits (each contains seven tests) from a COVID symptomatic site 1pm - 7pm. Testing will not be taking place at these sites during these times to avoid contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. The sites are open seven days a week and residents do not need to book an appointment to collect home test kits.

There are four local and regional symptomatic testing facilities in Oxfordshire that are offering the collection of home test kits for parents and carers:

Regional testing site (drive-through)

  • Oxford Parkway, Water Eaton Park & Ride, Oxford Road, Oxford, OX2 8HA

Local testing sites (walk-through)

  • Woodgreen Leisure Centre, Woodgreen Avenue, Banbury, OX16 0HS
  • Osney Lane, Oxford, OX1 1NY
  • Woodford Way car park, Witney, OX28 6JS

Home tests kits cannot currently be collected from the county council’s symptom-free testing sites. Residents should not go to one of these sites as the kits they have are not suitable for home use.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, should book a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test at one of the symptomatic testing sites as soon as possible.

There are five local and regional testing facilities in Oxfordshire (as above with the addition of Oxford Brookes University in Headington). Booking is required.

In addition, mobile testing units are deployed in various locations across the county for a few days at a time, including Abingdon, Bicester, Bodicote, Chinnor, Carterton, Didcot and Wheatley.

Alternatively, residents can request the home delivery of a test when booking a test.

More information on this is available on Oxfordshire County Council’s website.

More information

This week’s COVID-19 statistics in Oxfordshire by district are:

  • Cherwell 37.2 per 100,000 of the population compared to 71.8 the previous week
  • Oxford 30.2 per 100,000 of the population compared to 82 the previous week
  • South Oxfordshire 28.9 per 100,000 of the population compared to 45.8 the previous week
  • Vale of White Horse 35.3 per 100,000 of the population compared to 58.1 the previous week
  • West Oxfordshire 25.3 per 100,000 of the population compared to 26.2 the previous week.

Lateral flow testing

Rapid COVID-19 tests (also known as lateral flow tests) are available for households with school-aged children and through some workplaces via the government’s home testing scheme, and to anyone in a public facing role who does not have access to workplace testing at one of the county’s three test centres. They are only recommended for those not showing symptoms.

The test kit is a hand-held device with an absorbent pad at one end and a reading window at the other. Inside the device is a strip of test paper that changes colour in the presence of COVID-19 proteins (antigens).

Taking a lateral flow test usually involves taking a sample from the back of the throat near the tonsils and from the nose, using a swab. The swab is dipped into an extraction solution. This is then dripped on to the device's paper pad, producing the reaction that gives the result.

The result will be visible on the device in 30 minutes after the sample is applied. Unlike a PCR test, there is no need to send the sample to a lab.

Once a home test is completed, the kit should be placed into the bag provided and disposed of with general household waste.

Find out more about how the lateral flow test is being used in schools on the gov.uk website.

PCR

Anybody displaying any COVID-19 symptoms should get a PCR test through one of four symptom testing sites throughout the county. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are used to confirm a suspected case of coronavirus, where the person is already self-isolating and is showing symptoms.

Like the lateral flow test, the test usually involves taking a sample from the tonsils (or where they would’ve been) and from the nose, using a swab.

This test checks for the genetic material (RNA) of the virus in the sample and is sent to a lab for processing. Anybody showing symptoms should self-isolate immediately (along with their household) and book a PCR test as soon as possible.

Record managed by Oxfordshire Family Information Service