Stay safe despite end of free testing, Council asks residents

The Government’s dismantling of the Covid-19 testing system on Friday will make it harder for residents to be responsible citizens in the fight against the pandemic, the Council’s Director of Public Health has said.

From 1 April, the Government will remove the free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing programme in England, meaning most people will need to buy rapid or PCR tests commercially if they want to know their Covid status. 

In Hackney, this means that five Council-operated testing centres in Stoke Newington, Dalston, Hackney Central, Homerton and Stamford Hill will close for in-person testing and collection of home kits. Two additional home test pick-up points will also close. 

The centres have been open since 2020, and have been operated by Council staff, NHS staff and volunteers throughout the pandemic, providing vital local services. 

Covid-19 cases rose 24% last week in Hackney, and hospital admissions are also rising – although much lower than at earlier peaks of the pandemic, with 65% of people in Hackney over 12 having at least one vaccine.

Dr Sandra Husbands, Director of Public Health

Although vaccines have made it possible for us to think about living with Covid, the pandemic hasn’t gone away. 

Most people have been responsible and wanted to know whether they have Covid or not before they mixed with vulnerable family members, visited crowded spaces, or went to work or school. The end of free testing will make it more difficult for people to be confident that they’re doing the right thing. So, it will be even more important from 1 April to focus on the other ways we can help keep each other safe from Covid.

While with funding ending, we’re being forced to close our testing centres, I’d encourage everyone to act responsibly and stay home if they have Covid symptoms, get vaccinated – including having your booster – and continue to follow sensible guidance to stay safe.

Dr Sandra Husbands, Director of Public Health

The Council is encouraging residents to follow five simple steps to stay safe from Covid:  

  • stay home – for at least five days if you’re feeling unwell, have symptoms or test positive
  • get vaccinated – protect yourself and others
  • ventilate your space – ventilate and let fresh air in during meetings
  • wear a face covering – especially around those who are not part of your household
  • wash your hands regularly – for at least 20 seconds

Getting vaccinated is the best precaution anyone can take to protect themselves from getting seriously ill. Vaccinations are available at vaccination centres, pharmacies and pop-up clinics for everyone over the age of 12, or anyone over the age of five with a weakened immune system.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the vaccine can arrange a free appointment with a local clinician by calling the vaccine helpline on 07706 735 915. For opening times, more information and answers to frequently asked questions about the vaccine, visit the Covid-19 Vaccine page.