THE PEOPLE of Frankley, Great Park and Northfield have been praised for their overwhelming response to the appeal for those over 18 to take Covid tests following the discovery of the South African variant in the areas.
The words from Birmingham City Council’s Director of Public Health Dr Justin Varney and local councillors came during the latest virtual meeting to update people on the current situation.
More than 12,000 people in total were tested in just under a fortnight after the Operational Eagle programme started on February 5.
Of those, 3,700 were carried out at the mobile test centres in Longbridge and on the car park of the Empire Cinema, 3,600 people were tested door-to-door, 2,800 via the drop and collect system and 2,000 through community collection.
The figures would determine whether there had been an increase in positive cases which could indicate if the South African variant had impacted on the amount of Coronavirus in the area.
Any positive tests would then be examined for the South African variant – undertaken by looking at the genetic code of the virus – but that takes a further seven to ten days.
As testing came to an end yesterday some were still being looked at for the South African variant but Dr Varney said, judging by the overall figures, it was anticipated that would not be the case.
He added it seemed when the Kent variant – the main one in Birmingham and the rest of the UK – was present, it often drove down the South African one as it was more dominant, although he stressed that was still to be scientifically proven.
Current Covid rates in the areas
The current Covid rate in Frankley, Great Park and the area of Northfield affected (around Tessall Lane) is 211 per 100,000 which is a 28 per cent drop compared to the last seven days and no higher than anywhere else in the Second City.
Likewise, the rate is 199 per 100,000 in those aged 60 and over – again no different to other parts of Birmingham – and there has been a 29 per cent drop in positive cases on the past seven days.
The figures also come at a time when the number of tests taken in Frankley, Great Park and Northfield were ten times higher than most other parts of the city.
Dr Varney said: “When we approached this, I was hoping for 30 per cent uptake but it has been well over 50 per cent.”
For example, the population of Frankley is 11,800 (which includes children) of those, 6,000 people aged 18 and over had been tested.
Dr Varney added it was testament to people’s responses that testing was brought to an end.
However, he said if a large amount of the tests were found to be the South African variant, the situation would need to be reviewed.
He concluded by thanking everyone for their response and getting tested, adding Birmingham City Council had learnt a lot from the project and how to approach similar situations if they were to arise in the future.
Coun Simon Morrall, who chaired the meeting and had issued a rallying call to residents to get tested, said: “I cannot tell you how immensely proud I am of everyone for the way they have responded – I want to say a huge thank you and congratulations to people for stepping up to the plate.
“This has set a benchmark for how testing should be carried out in other parts of the city.”
Coun Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care, echoed the comments.
“The way Frankley and Northfield have come together has been fantastic.
“This should be used as a blueprint for how this situation should be approached if it arises anywhere else.
“Thank you all for following the rules, maintaining social distancing and we are where we are now because of what the community has done.”