The Wokingham Paper

Test and Trace station to come to Reading following push from University and MP Matt Rodda

University of Reading
A coronavirus testing station will be opened at the University of Reading

A CORONAVIRUS testing station should be installed in the University of Reading to help make it easier for both students and residents to get tested. 

Reading East MP Matt Rodda spoke in Parliament on Wednesday, October 14, sharing his frustration that residents have had to travel long distances just to attend a Covid-19 medical facility. 

“Residents have recently been sent as far as south Wales to the constituency of … Cynon Valley, which is a six-hour round trip from Reading. 

“To make matters worse, we were promised a new testing centre, which has not arrived. This is in a university town, which obviously is particularly at risk. Ministers promised that students would have to travel no further than 1.5 miles for a test.

“I have reported these matters to the Universities minister, who is trying to help, but the current system means that she is unable to move quickly.”

He also voiced his support for a local approach to contract tracing, telling the chamber: “Evidence from around the country, including Wales, and around the world clearly demonstrates that local systems work. Their tracing rates for contacts of those infected are far higher than that of the national outsourced system.

“Crucially, there is no time to lose. We must take action now if we are to have any chance of stemming the rising tide of infections.

“Once up and running, a local tracing scheme could play an important part in keeping the virus under control until we have a vaccine and more effective treatments.”

Closing the debate, parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office Julia Lopez said: “I just want to let (Matt Rodda) know that we are going to be opening a testing site on the campus in Reading next week.”

She also referred to Mr Rodda’s Labour colleague from Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, who had called for a process that led to increased testing capacity. 

“We hope to be able to do 500,000 tests a day by the end of this month. On the points that he raised about the Slough testing centre, it is critical to underline that people must make sure they have booked their appointment before they arrive on foot or by car. I understand that that test centre is still accessible by both methods,” Ms Lopez said. 

No further details have been announced yet as to the launch of the coronavirus test centre at the University of Reading, but Mr Rodda was pleased with the progress made. It is anticipated that it will be for appointments only. 

The University of Reading has a webpage to give the community updates on the number of students who have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Friday, October 16, there have been 56 cases since the start of term on September 28. Over the seven days up to October 16, there were 33.

Mr Rodda told Wokingham.Today: “We need a centre here that local residents and students can use. I’m pleased to have played a part in making it happen.

“I’m delighted to have been able to help, but it’s been a team effort between the university and myself, putting pressure on the Government. It will be open to residents in the next few weeks.”

Labour leader Kier Starmer last week called for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown for the whole country in a bid to reduce transmission of the virus. This was, Mr Rodda said, a good plan.

“I think it’s sensible given that the rates (of infection) are rising dramatically,” he said. “Unless we do something to reset the position, we’ll be in the same path. It’s an easy action to reset things and let the test and trace service improve.

“By taking action now we’re essentially protecting the run-up to Christmas, a stitch in time saves nine.”

If the circuit break ran over half-term and into the first week of November, it would reduce disruption to schools, Mr Rodda said, adding that working from home would reduce contact with others, making any circuit breaker action “very sensible”. 

“It follows evidence from SAGE (the Government’s medical advisory board) – it would push the growth of the virus back 28 days, resetting it to early September levels. With Christmas coming up. It’s a really valuable thing to do, it’s a very sensible step.”

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