Peterborough bin crews receiving rapid COVID tests to reduce spread of virus
Peterborough bin crews are taking regular COVID tests in an attempt to drive down infections further
Peterborough Limited, trading as Aragon Direct Services, who run many essential services in the city, including waste and recycling collections, street cleaning, property maintenance, home to school transport and leisure services have rolled out twice weekly lateral flow testing for all of their frontline staff.
Earlier in the year bin collections in the city were delayed as crews contracted the virus, forcing them to self isolate.
The move comes after Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council launched a rapid testing initiative aimed at asymptomatic people who are leaving home regularly for work, volunteering or training, which has seen lateral flow test sites set up across the county.
Both councils have written to businesses with frontline workforces, offering them the opportunity to set up testing programmes on their own premises and highlighting the rapid testing sites which are up and running.
Peterborough Limited is the first business in Peterborough (outside of the health and education sectors) to establish rapid flow testing for all staff. The testing will identify workers carrying the virus unknowingly, ensuring they can self-isolate and reducing the risk of infection being passed on to others.
Councillor Mohammed Farooq, Chair of Peterborough Limited, said: “Our business has been severely affected by the pandemic, if one refuse crew member tests positive for Covid, it means we have to send the rest of their crew home to self-isolate which has created many challenges for us to keep on top of waste collections for the city.
“We know that rapid testing may initially identify more employees who are asymptomatic, but ultimately we will be able to plan around these positive cases. Our priority is the safety of our staff, their families and the residents of Peterborough and doing everything we can to stop the spread of infection.
“Our employees are very supportive of the testing programme and are grateful that we are doing all we can to keep them safe, in turn I want to say a personal thankyou to all the amazing staff who continue to work so hard throughout the pandemic. I am also grateful to all the residents of Peterborough for their continued support of our key workers.”
The team at Peterborough Limited have obtained approximately 9,000 tests and associated PPE. They have transformed part of their Fengate depot into a rapid testing centre, where tests can be carried out and processed under one roof. The testing is being administered by staff from gyms and leisure centres who have been fully trained to support colleagues with registration, self-swabbing and processing results.
Melissa Shaw, head of service management at Peterborough Limited, who has overseen the project, said: “Setting up the lateral flow testing centre and training staff has required an awful lot of logistical planning, but we are delighted to see how well it is working, it has been a great team effort – it is not the first time our colleagues who have joined us from Vivacity have been redeployed to ensure we continue to provide excellent service to the residents of Peterborough.
“As gyms and swimming pools have been closed we have been able to train some of our lifeguards and leisure team to work with our refuse crews and help ensure other services continue as smoothly as possible.”
Meanwhile, the rapid testing drive across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough continues to gather pace, with 5,965 tests being carried out in the week commencing February 22.
A new rapid testing site has now opened at the Nene Valley Community Centre in Candy Street, Woodston, Peterborough. The site is open from Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm. There are now seven rapid testing sites across the county, with the potential to set up further pop-up sites if required.
Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “The Government has published its plan to gradually loosen the restrictions on our lives in the coming weeks and months, but the Prime Minister has made it clear that can only happen if a number of measures are achieved. One of those is controlling the rate of transmission of the virus so that this does not risk a surge which increases pressure on NHS hospitals. We can only achieve this if people continue to follow lockdown and social distancing rules, and also make sure to access testing - either because they have symptoms, or because they are going out of their homes regularly and therefore may be more likely to have the virus without knowing it.
“The rapid testing that we are offering across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, both in workplaces and in the community, is an important way to help reduce rates of Covid-19 and ensure that we can all get back to doing more of what we used to enjoy. If you are leaving home regularly for work, volunteering or training, please access a test twice a week and help us drive down rates of infection.”
To find your nearest site and to book a test visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/rapidtesting or www.peterborough.gov.uk/rapidtesting