The Government have given the green light for Coronavirus testing to be made available for everyone at Stoke City’s bet365 stadium.
It follows weeks of lobbying from MP’s and the leader of the City council.
Abi Brown wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week urging him to open the facility on the car park at the football ground to all residents.
Previously, only certain key workers, such as NHS staff, police and fire officers, could access the testing site with some people being directed to regional centres as far away as Manchester.
But anyone now booking a Covid-19 test through the NHS website will be offered the option to attend from early next week,
The news has been welcomed by local politicians and civic leaders who previously raised the issue with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “I am delighted that the Government has recognised the need for Stoke-on-Trent to be home to a national testing centre.
”Our brilliant geographical location makes us ideal for not just residents of the city to get tested, but also the wider North Staffordshire area and beyond.
”And, of course, none of this would be possible without the support of Stoke City Football Club, who have allowed use of their car park to position the testing centre.”
Jack Brereton, MP for Stoke South, said: “The Bet365 Stadium testing centre was set up very quickly by the hard work of our local NHS and council staff, with the support of everyone at Stoke City Football Club.
”It was not right, however, for everyone else to have to travel up to 80 miles for a test, and I am delighted that our requests to the Department of Health have been successful.”
Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North said: “I am absolutely delighted to get the news that the Bet365 Stadium has been approved as a regional testing centre For people across the city, including my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke.
“This makes total sense, Stoke-on-Trent is the 13th biggest city in the UK, it is absolutely right that a location this size should have its own testing centre.
”People shouldn’t have to travel so far and potentially increase the risk of infection to get tested for Covid-19.
”Previously only frontline workers could access tests, despite the stadium having a lot of space and a willing owner. My 10 year-old constituent Ava reached out to me after her grandmother almost had to travel to Manchester to get tested, so I wrote to Boris Johnson and the Minister and the Secretary of State for Health to have the testing capabilities expanded at the bet365 and I am delighted this lobbying has paid off.”
Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central said: “I’m delighted to see that our lobbying to ensure that the testing centre becomes an official regional centre has been successful.
”This will mean fewer local residents will have to travel long distances for testing and more people will ave access to testing at the Stoke City Bet365 site.”
”Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme said: “I am delighted that the Government has listened to our calls to upgrading the testing centre at the bet365 stadium to full regional status.
”Having this testing facility on our doorstep will save my constituents time and will support our national contact tracing strategy. This in turn will help our local businesses and public services in Newcastle-under-Lyme as we recover from this terrible pandemic.”