The walk-in covid test centre at the Dreamland car park off Belgrave Road is due to be closed down at the end of the month.
It is understood the site will close on August 29 with decommissioning on September 3.
The decommissioning means an uncertain time for the 28 operators, two managers, two supervisors, cleaners and security staff who may transfer to the Manston site or to a new site – although this is yet to be confirmed.
The test site first opened in October 2020 with both a drive through and a walk through service.
It was opened as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to improve accessibility to coronavirus testing for local communities. The site provides polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests which are sent away to a lab to diagnose disease – in contrast to the lateral flow tests (LFTs) which can diagnose Covid-19 on the spot, but aren’t as accurate as PCRs. However, PCRs can also provide false positive results by detecting dead, deactivated virus still present in the body of someone who has recovered from Covid-19.
In March this year the drive through facility was removed but walk-in services for PCR tests remained.
The car park site was formerly owned by Thanet council but sold to Dreamland park operator Sands heritage Ltd as part of a deal for the entire amusement park estate. That deal was sealed in December although the car park did not transfer until this Spring.
Sands Heritage Ltd agreed to extend the original six month lease of the site for the covid test centre but this is due to expire with no agreement for further renewal.
A Dreamland spokesperson said: “The initial lease for the Covid testing centre was for 6 months. This was then extended by Sands Heritage Ltd for a further 6 months which expires on September 5.”
Proposals for a multi-storey car park on the site are said to be under discussion but the Dreamland spokesperson said: “There are currently no confirmed plans, but any possible multi-storey car park development in the future would be subject to all the necessary planning permissions.”
The covid test centre closure comes despite walk-in numbers doubling over the past week.
The closure will mean the nearest walk-in test centre will be in Canterbury, or pre-booked drive-in at Manston.
The closure has caused some concern with a source telling The Isle of Thanet News: “PCR testing is still very much needed as it’s the only one that can pick up variants and with it being deprived in some areas there are those who can’t get to Manston.
“The nearest walk in will be Canterbury, by the university, but people can’t sit on a bus if they have symptoms.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “To tackle this global pandemic we have built the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history from scratch.
“Testing is a vital part of our ongoing response to COVID-19 and our roadmap back to normal life, and we have a huge PCR testing capability for people with symptoms, that is helping us break chains of transmission.
“We are making it easier than ever to get a test with free twice weekly rapid tests available for everyone in England, meaning cases can be detected faster and more easily, and outbreaks can be stopped earlier.”
The covid positive test rate in Thanet per 100,000, as of 12 August, stands at 273.6. There have been no covid related deaths in the district since May 2. This month, up to August 8, there have been 15 admissions to East Kent Hospitals (comprising QEQM, Ashford and Canterbury) and four patients are on ventilators.
In Thanet 188,774 vaccinations have been given. Of these 99,273 people have received a first dose (as of August 16) and 89,501 people have had two doses.
As of yesterday (August 16) anyone who is fully vaccinated or under 18 no longer needs to self-isolate after close contact with someone who has COVID-19 if they have no symptoms. If a person has symptoms they should still isolate and take a PCR test.
Check how to get a PCR test at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test