A NEW coronavirus testing centre for people without Covid symptoms has opened in Maldon.

The centre has been launched at West Maldon Community Centre, in Sunbury Way.

It is offering lateral flow tests to people who are not showing symptoms, with results coming back in around 30 minutes.

Essex public health director Dr Mike Gogarty said: “ Even though there has been a slight decrease in the infection rate in Maldon, we must not be complacent the numbers are still extremely concerning.

"Local NHS services are coming under significant strain as a result of the new variant of Covid-19.

"A critical incident had been declared across the county, with critical care and bed capacity rising as well as high staff sickness and self-isolation levels.

“This additional testing centre will allow us to test even more people in the worst affected areas where we continue to see worryingly high rates. Thousands of people have already been tested at the fast testing centres we have opened."

Tests for residents living in the Maldon district are by appointment only and bookings must be made online or by calling call 0333 772 6144.

Behave as if those around you have Covid-19 and maintain a two-metre distance from anyone outside of your household or support bubble at all times

Dr Gogarty added: “Testing people who feel well will help to identify the hidden cases in the community – people who may be unwittingly infecting others.

"If you test positive following one of the new fast tests, you will be asked to self-isolate and take a further test to confirm the initial result.

"If positive, you will also be required to disclose any close contacts to the local or national contact tracing service.

“It is absolutely vital that in addition to these efforts, everyone continues to adhere to the appropriate Covid-19 guidance.

"This includes working from home wherever possible and socially distancing, particularly in indoor settings that are permitted to remain open, such as essential shops and supermarkets.

"Behave as if those around you have Covid-19 and maintain a two-metre distance from anyone outside of your household or support bubble at all times.”

Maldon District Council leader Wendy Stamp said: “Identifying people without symptoms who have the virus, and getting them to self-isolate, is extremely important, so that we can control the spread of the pandemic.

“Rapid testing will now be the focus in the district and crucial in reducing the rate of infection. I would really encourage people to book one of these rapid tests and help stop the spread of the virus.”

The county council says the current test site at Maldon Town Hall will close once current stocks have gone but will remain open to collect completed tests following a change in government policy on community Covid-19 testing.