A WALK-IN coronavirus testing site has today been opened at a theatre in Basingstoke.

The Anvil, currently closed with no performances scheduled until 2021, has been transformed into a new coronavirus testing facility.

The government say that it comes as part of its drive to improve accessibility to tests for communities.

Residents of Basingstoke with symptoms are able to book a test online or by calling 119, and offered an appointment at the walk-through centre.

It is designed to be accessible for people without a car, with the first appointments available today (Monday).

Those being tested will be required to follow public health measures, including social distancing, not travelling by taxi or public transport, practising good personal hygiene and wearing a face covering throughout, including while travelling to and from the testing centre.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “We continue to expand testing to make sure that everyone with symptoms can get a test, with our new walk-in sites making it even easier no matter where you live.

“This new site forms part of our national testing network, which has the capacity to test more than a million people a week and is growing all the time.

“If you have symptoms of coronavirus, I urge you to book a test today and follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace if you are contacted to protect others around you and stop the spread of the virus.”

It comes as four other Covid testing sites are due to open across Hampshire in the coming weeks, including in Aldershot, Gosport, Havant and Winchester.

The government's testing network now includes more than 500 sites - including 78 drive-through sites and 202 walk-through clinics.

Councillor Keith Mans, leader of Hampshire County Council and Chair of Hampshire’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said: “These appointment-only walk-through sites are a very welcome addition to the testing provision we already have within the county. They will help ensure access to prompt and convenient testing, particularly for those who are unable to access testing sites by car, which is key to preventing further spread of the virus.”

“Viral infection rates in Hampshire are rising – in all areas, though thankfully still not as rapidly as elsewhere in the country, but we know how quickly and easily the virus can be transmitted from person to person. We are currently in Tier 1 (Medium) of the new COVID Alert Levels which means the national restrictions continue to apply within Hampshire, and it is important that anyone with symptoms – however mild – seeks a test promptly. It is equally important that those who do not have symptoms refrain from booking a test, in order to manage demand and to ensure that tests are available for those who really need one.

"We would also remind residents that they should return home immediately after their test and remain in self-isolation whilst awaiting their results.”

It comes as infection rates continue to increase across the country. Yesterday, 14 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Basingstoke and Deane.

A mobile drive-through testing unit was set up at Basingstoke Leisure Park in May after increased demand in the town for tests.

And an assessment centre for Covid patients was also temporarily opened in a car park near Russell Howard Park in April.