An old school bus is helping Stockport on its journey out of Covid restrictions and back to a more normal way of life.
Once a stalwart of the school run, it has been given a new lease of life as a mobile testing unit.
The council is using the yellow-liveried vehicle to deliver rapid ‘lateral flow’ tests for organisations, businesses and residents across the borough.
These provide a fast way to test people who do not have the symptoms of Covid-19, but may unwittingly still be spreading the virus.
The tests are easy to use and give a result in 30 minutes. Those who test positive must immediately self-isolate to avoid passing the virus on to others and book a PCR test to confirm the result.
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When operating at full capacity the bus can provide 192 tests a day – fitting given the number of Stockport’s most famous bus – identifying asymptomatic carriers and providing reassurance to the wider community.
Each positive case found via rapid testing prevents several other people from becoming infected.
Jennifer Connolly, director of public health for Stockport, has welcomed the boost to the borough’s asymptomatic testing capacity.
She said “Lateral flow testing gives rapid results and is one of the tools to help us stop the spread of the virus.
“One in three people who have COVID don’t get symptoms. By diagnosing them and asking them to self-isolate we can stem the transmission and keep our friends, loved ones and community safe.”
Initially, the bus was used by businesses to test their employees but the government is now offering universal testing to all adults.
DSG Finance, in Cheadle Heath, is one of the firms that have been making use of mobile unit.
Isaac Winton-Hayes, HR officer at company, said: “We take very seriously our responsibilities to contribute to the early detection of Covid-19 cases.
“Looking after our people includes looking after their communities. Stockport council’s mobile Covid testing support has allowed us to do both.
“Hosting the bus in our car park has allowed easy access for our colleagues and also our neighbours.
“Lateral flow testing for Covid is integral to our Covid security onsite – providing an additional layer of protection alongside our standard measures of rigid social distancing and hygiene. The support from the Stockport council team has made the entire process easy and effective.”
The former school bus was donated by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and is just one of a number of such vehicles it has given to community and voluntary organisations.
Stephen Rhodes, TfGM’s customer director, said: “I am delighted to see one of our yellow school buses being repurposed for such a critical role.
“Community testing remains central to our fight against Covid-19 and this next mobile testing facility will mean more people can be tested quickly and conveniently. This bus is just one way TfGM has been working over the past year to support residents, communities and businesses across Stockport and Greater Manchester.”
Anyone with the symptoms of coronavirus – including a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste and smell – should get a PCR test and self-isolate until you get the result.
Those who have received a positive lateral flow test should do the same.
Tests can be booked here: https://www.stockport.gov.uk/getting-tested-coronavirus