Today sees the national publication of a new set of COVID-19 testing data called Pillar 2 data. Pillar 1 data records all COVID-19 testing data that relates to hospital settings and key workers, and this is the data that is currently reported daily in terms of positive cases. Pillar 2 data covers testing of the wider population outside of hospitals, including Mobile Testing Units and this data has not been widely available until today.

The publication of this data means that the total number of confirmed positive cases in Northamptonshire is expected to approximately double. This additional dataset covers a testing period from the beginning of May until the end of June 2020.

Lucy Wightman, Director of Public Health in Northamptonshire said: “This data may initially appear concerning, but I want to reassure residents of Northamptonshire that there is no cause for alarm. We welcome the fact that Pillar 2 testing data is now being published, and the new data reflects the fact that many more people with milder coronavirus symptoms have been able to access testing locally over the past two months.

“Overall in Northamptonshire, the trend of new infections is still reducing and hospitalisations and deaths due to COVID-19 continue to decline.

“However, I must emphasise that the virus has not gone away, and I continue to urge everyone to stay alert and act responsibly in helping us to control the virus and keep transmission rates low. As lockdown measures ease, it is essential that we act responsibly and minimise risks of increased transmission rates. It is easy to see from other areas how the number of cases can increase rapidly, with far reaching consequences.

“Such situations reinforce the importance of booking a test via the government website if you have any of the three main symptoms of Coronavirus; a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss or change in your smell and taste. Every positive test means that contact tracing can be used to reduce onward transmission and save lives.

“If you have COVID-19 symptoms – however mild – it is vitally important that you self-isolate immediately and, should you test positive, that you help the NHS Test and Trace service identify your recent contacts. If you are asked to selfisolat because someone you have been in contact with has tested positive, you must do so. Everyone has a vital role to play in reducing the spread of the virus.”

Increasing access to community testing, through the Mobile Testing Units located at various venues across the county since the beginning of May, means that many more people with milder COVID-19 symptoms have been able to access testing for the virus.

The increased restrictions in nearby Leicester City may be causing concern for residents in Northamptonshire, particularly those in the north of the county. If you travel from Leicester City to work in Northamptonshire, the advice is to only commute to work if you are a key worker and you can’t work from home. Additionally, Leicester City residents are asked not to travel to Northamptonshire hospitals to visit relatives until the local lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The risk of COVID-19 transmission cannot be eliminated entirely however the public have a key role to play in reducing the risk as far as possible. Members of the public are reminded to act responsibly, especially as some lockdown measures in Northamptonshire ease over the coming weekend. Plan ahead when eating or drinking in pubs, maintain a two-metre distance wherever possible and continue to carry out regular and thorough hand washing.