THE leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has said he welcomes the town’s new walk-in coronavirus centre, as it will help meet the “likelihood” of increased demand for tests in the coming weeks.

Cllr Ken Rhatigan told the Gazette: “As residents come back from university and things later in the year, towards Christmas, there is a likelihood that the number of needed tests might go up.

“Everybody wants to make sure that the capacity for testing is right, so residents are not inconvenienced when they need one.

“The number of cases seem to be rising nationally and so there are lots of good reasons for having it locally.”

The new walk-in testing centre opened today, Monday October 19, at The Anvil, Churchill Way East, in Basingstoke.

Its opening comes after insufficient testing capability in the area was reported back in September.

When asked whether he believes the new centre to finally address this problem, Cllr Rhatigan said: “It is important that when people need testing, that they can have a site that is local to them, so it is a real positive.

“The capacity is quite large, around 800 a day, so that should mean that people will not have to go elsewhere in Hampshire and other areas.

“It suggests to me the government realises the best way to give the public confidence is to allow them to get tested.”

MP for Basingstoke, Maria Miller, has also hailed the new facility as “important”.

“The new Coronavirus testing centre in Basingstoke is part of a national programme to expand the number of town centre sites that can be more easily reached by people who are not in cars. It will add important testing capacity in our part of the south east,” she said.

“It’s important that everyone who is experiencing the symptoms of Coronavirus has ready access to the tests they need. The level of Coronavirus infection in Basingstoke remains lower than many other areas of the UK and I applaud the action taken by our local NHS and residents to make this happen.

“The opening of this new test centre will help ensure those who do have symptoms and test positive for the virus can take swift action and self isolate to help stop the spread of the virus in our community.”

Cllr Rhatigan believes the location at the Anvil theatre to be suitable for more than just its size.

“Of course, while it won’t solve the problems of the Anvil, it also means it remains in people’s consciousness, even when they are not doing shows and things at the moment,” he said.