REASSURANCE has been offered to the public regarding the location of a new Covid-19 testing centre in the middle of the town.

As reported, the new walk-in testing centre opened yesterday at The Anvil, in Churchill Way East, to be used by people without a car, and comes as part of a government drive to improve accessibility for tests for communities.

However, concerns have been raised about the location, with worries that people with Covid-19 symptoms might walk through a busy town centre to get there or use public car parks if they decide to drive instead.

Others have questioned how people suffering from Covid-19 symptoms would manage to walk miles to reach The Anvil, particularly as they are expected to wear a face covering for their journey.

Leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Cllr Ken Rhatigan, described the location as “very sensible” because “thousands of residents can walk there”, or be dropped off close to the entrance.

He said the council was consulted on prior to a decision being made, and said residents offered a test at The Anvil are encouraged in their letter of confirmation to walk or cycle.

“Additionally, they must wear a face mask, so exposure to others is limited and even less than if two non-masked individuals walk past each other in the street as is allowable now,” he told the Gazette.

A spokesperson for the borough council said the decision regarding the location was made by Hampshire County Council.

They added: “We have worked with those operating the centre to ensure that people attending with symptoms are not putting people in the town centre at any additional risk.

“Anyone attending an appointment at a walk-through testing site will be provided with guidance on getting to and from the test site safely, including: adhering to social distancing; not travelling in a taxi or on public transport; wearing a face covering throughout (including travelling to and from the testing centre); and washing their hands thoroughly before leaving for their appointment.

“The approach has been agreed with expert clinical oversight. There are detailed clinical operating procedures, developed in collaboration with clinical experts, for local walk-through testing sites. Layouts at walk-through testing sites have been carefully designed to ensure people can move around them safely and prevent spread of the virus; social distancing will be maintained throughout the testing process; and people attending the sites are asked to wear a face covering.”

Hand sanitising stations have also been set up. Those who do arrive by car will be directed to park close to The Anvil and access it via “clearly marked routes”. The lifts and stair wells leading to The Anvil will be cleaned every 30 minutes by dedicated staff from the testing centre.

Dr Matt Nisbet, a GP at Crown Heights and clinical lead at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of clinical commissioning groups, said it is important to provide a walk-in testing centre.

He added: “A lot of the patients I see don’t have a car, but they still need access to tests.”