Just before 7pm last night Hastings Borough Council (HBC) released a further statement on its position regarding the pop-up Covid-19 testing unit that appeared on The Stade open space at the weekend.
*Council fails to say what other sites were considered
*Council told ‘all publicity’ was to be undertaken by the organisers
*Local community WERE NOT exposed to greater risk
*Hastings In Focus has asked for an on-camera interview with an elected member of Hastings Borough Council
For those who had called yesterday for the council to apologise for allowing the unit to operate from such a high-profile town centre location there was disappointment. A senior official from Sussex Resilience Forum, the Director of Public Health for East Sussex County Council and HBC leader Kim Forward made further attempts to justify the decision.
At the same time the number of signatures being added to the petition that was set up on Saturday calling for the council to have a rethink was growing all the time and this morning stands just short of 1,600 signatures You can sign it by clicking here .
Last night’s statement repeated what the council had already said; that it was asked ‘some time ago’ by Public Health at East Sussex County Council, to identify a suitable location for a temporary Covid testing station in the town. It repeats the assertion that a number of sites were looked at with military advisers but only one, The Stade open space, met the criteria.
Last night’s statement fails to do what many people were asking yesterday and that is to say what other sites were considered. So far no one from HBC has made themselves available for interview so it has not been possible to ask supplementary questions or find out more than is being said in official statements and press releases.
The statement says that: “Faced with the alternative of not having a testing station at all, we agreed it (The Stade) could then be used on an occasional basis.”
Defending itself against accusations that it should have notified local people what was going on the council says: “The council was told that all publicity about the site was to be undertaken by the organisers.”
Many of those who objected to the testing centre in the heart of the town were concerned about people with Covid-19 being in a crowded area but
Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health for East Sussex County Council, says: “I want to reassure the local community that they were not exposed to greater risk by the temporary Covid-19 testing centre at The Stade over the weekend.
“…these testing sites are very important in the ongoing management of coronavirus and benefit the local community and wider population.”
“These mobile testing units are a vital component of our effort to manage the pandemic in East Sussex. They provide quick and easy access to the local community to a testing facility, reducing the need for people to travel long distances to a testing station.
“Symptomatic people will only be accepted if they are in a car. Those on foot are likely to be asymptomatic essential workers, who pose no more risk there than if they went shopping or anywhere else.
“Those who book a test are instructed to take precautionary measures, in line with our guidance, to reduce the risk of infection”
Council leader Kim Forward, is quoted, saying: “The Stade is an accessible location for a local testing station for Hastings and its communities. Despite it not being our preferred choice of site, these testing sites are very important in the ongoing management of coronavirus and benefit the local community and wider population. The ability for local people and key workers to be tested locally is very important to help keep vital services operating.
The council, with partners, will continue to look for alternative suitable sites…
“We understand that some people have concerns about this location and potential risks, but this is why the precautions that the government, NHS, Public Health England the council have been communicating about washing hands, wearing face coverings if possible and keeping social distance are essential to us all staying safe.”
Marc Clothier, a Superintendent with Sussex Police and Sussex Resilience Forum Tactical Chair, says: ““The provision of mobile testing has been coordinated by the Sussex Resilience Forum – which brings together local government, the emergency services, the NHS and other public agencies from across Sussex to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic – and ensures that we are able to provide capacity in areas needed most. We continue to work closely across all of our partnerships to ensure there is good capacity to protect the public during our response to and recovery from Covid-19.”
The statement concludes by saying: “The council, with partners, will continue to look for alternative suitable sites for the pop-up testing unit to be hosted in the town. However, in the interest of public health, paramount importance will be that the town can host mobile testing sites when they are needed.”