Problems accessing Covid testing in West Sussex as area seen as ‘low priority’

More than 100 people in West Sussex have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past week.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 2:06 pm
A West Sussex Covid testing site. Pic Steve Robards SR2009071 SUS-200709-174036001

News of the 103 cases was reported to a meeting of the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday (September 15).

The figure equates to 13.4 cases per 100,000 people, which is well below the national average of 32.8 cases per 100,000.

Amanda Jupp, cabinet member for adults and health, warned that the county would no doubt see a rise in those figures now schools and workplaces have reopened.

She said: “We must not be complacent. We must continue to social distance, wash our hands regularly and wear masks in public places.

“This is essential guidance in order to prevent the virus spreading and I urge all residents to be vigilant.”

The main problem facing the county has been access to testing and the time it takes for the results to come through.

Becky Shaw, chief executive officer, said the situation was a ‘headache’.

A report to the meeting said laboratory capacity for testing had been reached and, because of its relatively low number of Covid cases, the south east region was seen as a low priority.

Ms Shaw made it clear that the council was fighting to improve the resources at its disposal.

She said: “We’re making it really clear to the Department of Health and Social Care, to the government, that in terms of our ability to manage any local outbreak effectively, to understand where it’s happening, to keep our schools open and to keep the economy going, that having good testing is going to be the fundamental that underpins that.”

She assured cabinet members that the county, district and borough councils were working together to make sure they made the best of the resources they did have, particularly when it came to testing.

Mrs Jupp said she understood people’s frustration with the lack of testing available but said more would be coming through over the next five to six weeks.

She added: “I think we should remember that we can’t magic new laboratories or staff out of nowhere, and demand for the time being is out-stripping supply.

“Our team is continuing to work with all its partners to ensure we get the right outcome for all our residents.”

Dr Stephen Horsley, interim director of public health, told the meeting that the people of West Sussex had done well when it came to sticking to the rules.

Mid Sussex has been rated ‘green’, with only 11 cases per 100,000, while Crawley – which saw an outbreak a few weeks ago – now has one of the lowest rates in the county.

Dr Horsley confirmed that there had been an outbreak of 13 cases in Worthing earlier this month, which was down to a family gathering – not a local business as was claimed on social media.

A message from the Editor, Gary Shipton:

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news, I am asking you to please purchase a copy of our newspapers.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspapers.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

Stay safe, and best wishes.