Published: 06:00, 24 June 2020
| Updated: 07:36, 24 June 2020
A coronavirus testing centre in Ashford could stay open until Christmas.
Having been operational since June 12, the Department of Health confirmed its lease on the Victoria Road car park site lasts for another six months.
The length of time it remains open will depend on the demand and the testing capacity in the wider area.
It could remain in place longer if it is needed as the initial lease will stay under review.
With the borough having the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in the country, Ashford MP Damian Green had called on the government to open a centre in the town.
He believes the site could well be in operation in six months' time, saying: "I think it's perfectly possible.
"There's no sign whatsoever that there's an end date to it, since testing and tracking will build up over the months.
"Let's assume all goes reasonably well, it'll need to be there for tracing as we go into winter.
"There's nervousness about maybe flu coming in so more people will be getting symptoms similar to Covid-19 and we need testing to identify cases.
"My best guess is they'll need it for some months to come, even if we don't see a second spike."
The number of tests carried out at the centre since it opened has not been revealed.
News of the long lifespan of the facility comes as the government confirmed it is piloting a new test that uses saliva to avoid uncomfortable probing with a swab.
It is part of the 'test and trace' programme currently being undertaken, whereby anyone testing positive for the virus will be contacted to help them track people they have been in contact with.
"My best guess is they'll need it for some months to come even if we don't see a second spike..."
Regarding the new saliva test, Mr Green said: "I very much welcome it. I've spoken to various people who've taken the existing swab test and they all say it's very difficult to administer and pretty revolting to do, so any easier test will be better especially if it's just as reliable."
Anybody who has symptoms or think they may have come into contact with the coronavirus can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
More by this authorCharlie Harman
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