Picket Twenty Sports Ground in Andover could become a rapid testing centre for Covid under plans announced by the county council.

Hampshire County Council has put forward the building, located on Telegraph Road, as one of 11 new community testing sites, which could begin operating as soon as Tuesday, February 23.

The site will test those without symptoms for Covid, and is intended to run for at least six weeks.

Councillor Judith Grajewski, Hampshire County Council’s executive member for public health, said: “The provision of fast, free coronavirus tests for people going out to work will help to drive down transmission rates and protect those most at risk from coronavirus. Around one in three people who are infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and breaking chains of transmission.

“The County Council’s public health and emergency planning teams are working closely with district partners to plan the roll out, which incorporates stringent infection control procedures. The layout at each site is being carefully designed to ensure people can move around them safely to prevent any possible spread of the virus. Furthermore, social distancing will be maintained throughout the testing process and trained staff will be in attendance on site, to guide people through the testing process and ensure that tests are completed safely and effectively.”

The new test centre is designed to complement testing for those with symptoms by testing for asymptomatic cases of the virus. It is aimed at residents who regularly travel outside their home for work, but are but covered by testing at their place of employment.

Research by Imperial College London suggests that up to 40 per cent of people who contract Covid have no symptoms, but can still pass it on to others.

To take a test, appointments must be booked in advance online. Participants are asked not to eat anything 30 minutes before their booking window.

Once they arrive, they will swab their own nose and throat with the guidance of a trained member of staff, and the swab will be sent for analysis. The results of the test will then be confirmed via text message.

Those taking tests will be invited to have a test every three to five days for the six week period, and anyone with a test will need to self-isolate.

The Picket Twenty centre will go alongside others at South Ham Library in Basingstoke and Winchester Discovery Centre, among others.

Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, councillor Phil North, said: “Getting this site ready as a community testing facility has been no mean feat and I am really pleased that we have been instrumental in bringing this forward. Although it would have been ideal to get this in place prior to now it’s inevitable that these things take time to be approved from the centre, so I cannot thank the staff at Test Valley Borough Council and Hampshire County Council enough for the huge amount of work they have undertaken to turn this around as quickly as possible to get the site ready to open its doors next week.

“Effective testing and, of course, the phenomenal vaccination programme, offer light at the end of the tunnel, and we will do everything we can to support our NHS and public health colleagues to deliver those. With The Lights theatre in Andover and Crosfield Hall in Romsey operating as successful vaccine sites, and the recent opening of the testing site at Shepherds Spring Lane car park, we have been keen to play our part in keeping people safe and hopefully bringing this pandemic to an end.”

Councillor Grajewski added: “It’s important to note that asymptomatic testing works hand-in-hand with the existing testing services available across Hampshire for those who are experiencing symptoms, and anyone with a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

“The introduction of rapid community testing for people without symptoms is a significant step forward in our fight against this virus, and I urge all those who are eligible for this scheme to come forward for regular testing and play their part in protecting our communities.”

To book a test, click here to go to Hampshire County Council's website.