Fire Services supporting work in a bid to combat the spread of African C19 variant

Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) are assisting communities where a specific strain of COVID-19 has been identified. Work underway includes assisting and delivering tests to thousands of households – and logistical support.

To date, Kent, Hertfordshire, Merseyside and Surrey FRS are all undertaking work in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19, specifically the newly discovered South African variant.

Roy Wilsher, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) commented: “This is yet another example of how the UKFRS can be at the centre of the response to COVID-19, ensuring help and assistance is given where it is needed the most.

“Within a short time of the new variant being discovered, fire services within these areas had local arrangements in place and were working closely with partners to ensure logistical and practical help was on hand.”

Firefighters and non-operational staff from Kent FRS have been taking part in door-to-door testing in parts of Maidstone. This work will continue with partners from the Kent Resilience Forum - including Kent Police and the local authority.

This work began on Tuesday (February 2nd) and is in response to the government’s request for as many people as possible - in identified areas - to be tested.

PCR tests will be carried out at the visits, collected and sent for testing. It does not include every property, but a sample of households. This is to help restrict the spread of the virus even further, as well as testing the samples for this South African variant.

Within a short time of the new variant being discovered, FRSs with partners had arrangements in place to ensure help was on hand.

Roy Wilsher

Surrey FRS is also playing a key role in the door-to-door delivery of thousands of testing kits in two separate locations (postcode areas). This is part of a drive to voluntarily mass test up to 20,000 residents. There are more than 150 people taking part, including firefighters and support staff, alongside organisations integral to the Local Resilience Forum.

Similar to work underway in Kent, volunteers will deliver the PCR tests and collect them before they are sent for specific analysis.  

Two Surrey fire stations (Woking and Egham) have been used as delivery hubs, and the FRS is also deploying equipment to support ‘Operation Eagle’. This includes large and small air shelters at key sites, providing fire service vehicles, staff and assistance with packing, storage and logistic delivery support.

Hertfordshire FRS is also assisting with work in its area by coordinating the distribution and collection of home test kits. This is through a newly established ‘Op Eagle’ Cell, led by the Deputy Chief Fire Officer.

Residents have been provided with information as to how they can get tested. And from today (February 3rd) firefighters, police officers, local authority teams and volunteers - coordinated by the Fire and Rescue Service - started to visit households, following post office distribution routes.

As of February 2nd, more than 2,000 of the expected 17,000 kits had already been distributed, the majority through pick-up/drop-off points established in the affected areas. The door to door distribution commenced on February 3rd.

Merseyside FRS is also working in this area. Staff have been out in Southport to support Sefton Council, with the roll out of home test kits - including delivery, collecting and sending for testing. 

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