Brighton and Hove Albion’s football stadium has been turned into the south coast’s biggest drive-in coronavirus testing centre.
Testing at the American Express Community Stadium is by appointment only, the football club said.
It said: “The site is part of the government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS staff and other key workers.
“It sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK and is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers.
“The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation.”
Albion chief executive Paul Barber said: “It has been amazing to see the Department of Health and Social Care and the team from Deloitte, who are overseeing the set up of these vital test centres, working alongside the army, club staff, AAA Security and the team from our stadium and the club‘s catering partners Sodexo, whose staff are helping to run the site.
“It is hugely impressive, and a great triumph of both teamwork and hard work. The Amex will be the biggest testing site anywhere on the south coast and will be used for self-testing and assisted testing.
“The centre was scheduled to see more than 50 NHS frontline workers yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and they will have the results of their tests within 48 hours. Within a few days, the site should reach its capacity of up to 1,000 tests a day.
“The members of our club and Sodexo staff who will be on site day to day have all been trained and the level of attention detail is phenomenal. And, having visited the site today, the team spirit was truly humbling.”
The set up at the Amex is part of the government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to put in place a network of new labs and field testing sites across Britain. More than 32 testing sites are understood to have opened to date.
The network of sites will provide thousands more swab tests which are used to identify those who currently have the virus.
The aim is to target critical key workers, starting with frontline NHS staff, with those who test negative for the covid-19 coronavirus cleared to return to work.
Adam Doyle, who heads the NHS coronavirus response in Sussex, said: “Testing more of our staff and other key workers, so those who are fit can return to work, is an important part of our plans for responding to the virus.
“This is one of four drive-through testing sites we now have across Sussex, supported with vehicles to test staff at home if they are unable to travel.
“I’d like to thank colleagues from across the NHS, local councils and of course Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club for all their hard work in getting all these testing facilities up and running.”
The football club said: “The Amex is already being used for storage of vital NHS supplies and, together with the club’s training centre at Lancing, will be available for NHS training and local emergency services, in order to co-ordinate their efforts in the fight against the virus.
“The stadium has also been offered to the local authority as a field hospital, if needed, but this would only be likely in a very extreme situation, with other venues in the city more suited to be used in this manner.
Mr Barber said: “We have committed to do everything we can to assist the NHS and other key workers in this crisis.
“We have already opened up the doors of the training ground, as well as the stadium, to be used by the NHS, emergency services and local authority for training, storage or whatever they feel it can be used for in the fight against this pandemic.”
The club said that it was also working with Sodexo and local charities to help NHS staff with food and drink donations and cash pledges.
Albion said: “The club delivered supplies initially designated for the Arsenal and Manchester United matches to staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“Meanwhile the club has also committed 1,000 match tickets for NHS staff once the pandemic is over and it is safe for fans to return to watch football.”
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