Published: 18:03, 22 April 2020
| Updated: 17:25, 23 April 2020
A huge new drive-thru coronavirus testing site will be built at Ebbsfleet International station.
The government today announced the station near Gravesend will join 29 regional testing sites for NHS and other key workers to increase testing capacity for thousands more people.
It will be operated on an "appointment-only basis" for the NHS and other key workers, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said today.
The new test centre will be run on a pilot scheme for the first few days of its operation.
It is one of an expansion of sites throughout the UK as the government aims to increase daily testing for Covid-19 to 100,000 by the end of the month.
NHS bosses in Kent and Medway say it will "significantly expand" testing capacity in the county.
Wilf Williams, accountable officer for the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Our hospital trusts across Kent and Medway have worked at an incredible pace over the last few weeks to mobilise testing for staff across health, care and other frontline services.
"This new centre significantly expands our testing capacity, in addition to that of the testing centres in all of our hospitals in Kent and Medway, and will help get key health and care workers who are self-isolating back to work as quickly as possible.
"Our planned ‘whole system’ response, utilising this important new facility, will help keep our essential services staffed and support our communities as we progress through the Coronavirus epidemic.”
The centre will be sub-contracted to G4S to run the service.
The government said all those tested will receive their results within a few days allowing all negative cases to return to work quicker.
Professor John Newton, the national coordinator for the UK Coronavirus Testing Strategy, said: “New testing sites such as this one are a key pillar of our 5-pillar plan to scale up testing, and are critical in supporting NHS staff and other frontline workers who are isolating at home to return safely to work if the test is negative.
“This is a brilliant example of industries and businesses turning their resources to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, which will help to deliver on our aim of carrying out 100,000 tests a day across the UK by the end of the month.”
A wide-ranging new partnership across the country is being rolled out by the government working with universities, researchers and companies for a network of new field testing sites and laboratories.
Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “The government is rapidly scaling up the national effort to boost testing capacity for coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives.
“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff and other key workers need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work.
“This is a national effort and we are proud to be working with a number of partners to turn this ambition into a reality and roll out additional capacity to where it is needed.”
Andrew Scott-Clark, director of public health for Kent County Council, speaking on behalf of the Kent Resilience Forum, added: “"We will be working with our partners to ensure that our key workers – working across a wide range of important industries that are essential for our communities – are able to get the testing that they need.
"This will ensure that they are able to work when they are well, keep themselves and their colleagues safe, and continue to keep our communities supported with the services and goods that they need.
A home-testing service is also being developed with the government and Amazon for key workers.
Dyan Crowther, chief executive of HS1 Ltd, the company which owns and runs Ebbsfleet International, added: “We are delighted to play our part to boost testing capacity in the region and to support the NHS in this way. We must all work together in partnership in the national efforts to fight Covid-19.”
Who will be tested and how to get an appointment
All NHS and social care staff from hospital, community and primary care and staff providing frontline support to NHS services and volunteers will be able to get tested.
This includes doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, community pharmacy staff and those providing hotel accommodation for NHS staff.
Emergency service workers such as police, firefighters, security forces, MoD Police, British Transport Police are also on the list.
So too are local authority staff including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers.
This includes adult and children's social care workers, frontline local authority staff and staff and volunteers in residential care settings for vulnerable children and young people as well as staff helping provide home care support for children and young people with special needs.
Defence, prison and court workers are also among the key worker list as are critical personnel working in energy, utilities and waste networks as well as critical personnel in food and drink production.
Any key worker must first speak to their employer in the first instance, the government advice says.
Employers who have frontline workers will be provided with information about how to make an appointment for their staff and this must be done via the Kent Resilience Forum or directly through the DHSC.
Any employer with queries should first contact the Kent Resilience Forum, their associated national government department pr agency, or the DHSC at email@example.com.
Further information about key workers and securing an appointment is available on the government's website here.