Libraries to be used for Asymptomatic Testing Centres in Edinburgh

Below is a briefing from the Council on their plans to set up Asymptomatic Testing Centres in Edinburgh. These will use libraries for short periods of time, including Colinton Library in my Ward. This is in addition to Oxgangs Library being used for Walk-In Testing.

The Scottish Government invited all local authorities and health boards to submit funding bids to establish and run ‘mobile’ asymptomatic testing centres (ATC) as part of a targeted community testing programme.

Their purpose is to drive down Covid19 transmission rates by identifying people in the community who have the virus but have no (or very mild) symptoms and could be spreading it unknowingly.

This is a key element of the Government’s strategy for containing the virus as the country gradually opens up from lockdown and Edinburgh’s progress through the levels system is likely to require that sites are up and running.

Council officers submitted a bid and agreement to fund the first six months of operation has now been received. This is likely to be renewed for the second half of the financial year at the same level.

How will the sites work?
Areas of the city with stubbornly high infection rates will be targeted and detailed work is ongoing with NHS Lothian to monitor the trends in the data to plan future deployment.

We are looking at a variety of other data including hard-to-reach communities and groups who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.

It is intended that two ATCs will operate in the city at one time, with each in place for around three weeks in total (one week set-up, one week open to the local community for walk-in tests and one week to take down).

The centres will operate from libraries, which have been chosen as being local and easily accessible venues across the city which communities are familiar with. Staff from Regulatory Services, Libraries and Culture are working jointly to bring together public health, venue management and local expertise so that the ATCs can be as welcoming and efficient as possible. ATCs will not be hosted within the same building as a Symptomatic Testing Centre. These facilities will be provided in separate locations.    

Every possible step will be taken to minimise the period of time a library is required as an ATC. Arrangements will be made to promote the availability of alternative libraries and services which citizens could use during the period their local library is being used as a testing centre. No ATC will be hosted in a library building during the period when it is in use as a polling place during the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

The first ATC will officially open in Craigmillar Library from Wednesday 21 April to Sunday 2 May, with a soft launch on Monday 19 and Tuesday 20 April. The second ATC is scheduled to open to the public for testing at Wester Hailes Library in the next couple of weeks. 

Details of the libraries currently considered to be suitable as ATCs are shown in the table at the end of this briefing.

Each site will accommodate up to six testing booths providing up to 480 tests per day (based on an eight-hour opening period), meaning a daily total of up to 960.

Up to 50 staff may be required and options including bringing back furloughed staff and recruiting fixed term contracts are being explored.

Communications will be carefully targeted to reach relevant communities, with messaging focusing on the benefits (to individuals, their families and the wider community) and offering reassurance around safety of testing and its environment. The project team has been in close dialogue with the trade unions in planning the ATCs and will continue to work with them as the community testing programme progresses, to make sure their members are fully informed.

Libraries identified for potential ATC use: South Queensferry, Kirkliston, Currie, Drumbrae, Blackhall, Stockbridge, Wester Hailes, Colinton, Fountainbridge, Morningside, Central Library, McDonald Road, Gilmerton, Moredun, Piershill & Portobello.

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