Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, has offered Teesside International Airport (IATA: MME) in the North East of England as a location for a new drive-through coronavirus testing centre. It would be the first such facility in the Tees Valley area if given the green light.
Teesside Airport temporarily closed to the public in March following the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 crisis.
A press release on behalf of the Mayor said a dedicated drive-thru facility where swab samples can be safely collected before being sent to labs for testing would allow frontline NHS workers in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to quickly, easily and conveniently get tested.
Currently, an IKEA store in Gateshead, some 35 miles (56km) away is the nearest coronavirus testing centre for frontline NHS staff in the Tees Valley.
Frontline NHS staff in key roles, such as critical care workers, paramedics, emergency department staff and primary care staff, would be eligible if they or a household contact develop symptoms of coronavirus.
The statement said that Mayor Houchen has already offered the use of the St George Hotel at Teesside Airport as a location for a temporary medical facility as part of the local response to the virus outbreak. He has also called for the empty supermarket building in Middlesbrough to be considered as a location for a temporary Nightingale hospital in the Tees Valley to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Houchen said: “Quick and reliable testing is an essential part of the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.
“Having a local testing facility serving our amazing frontline NHS staff living in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool will not only increase testing capacity; it will mean our dedicated doctors, nurses, paramedics, health care assistants and pharmacists can spend even more precious time with their families when not delivering life-saving care.
“The demand for coronavirus testing is growing, so it is important that we are able to provide a convenient and safe way to provide tests in a timely way, and which makes the best use of hard-working staff.
“Our airport is ideally located to provide such a testing facility because it’s conveniently close to major roads – so accessible for many of our local communities.
“Good hand hygiene is central to Government and Public Health England advice on cutting transmission rates and it is absolutely essential that everyone continues to follow these vital guidelines and be vigilant in washing their hands, especially after going outside.”