THE main Covid testing site for the region will close next week while coronavirus cases across Dorset surge.

The licence to use Creekmoor Park and Ride site in Poole includes an extension until the end of the year.

However, as part of the Government’s national policy, the testing facility will be stood down on Friday, April 1.

The Echo understands test centre staff were given notice that the closure was coming but there has been no public announcement.

Cllr Nicola Greene, portfolio holder for Council Priorities and Delivery, said: “We have a licence to use the Creekmoor Park and Ride site in Poole in place and that includes an extension up until the end of December 2022.

"However, based on recent announcements by the government, testing at the site is planned to cease by the end of March 2022.

“Although there are no firm plans for withdrawal from the site, discussions of the details of the withdrawal are being confirmed as part of national demobilisation.

Dorset Echo: Cllr Nicola GreeneCllr Nicola Greene

“We must thank the Department for Health and Social Care to enable this vital Covid testing service to be run from the site which has enabled thousands of people in BCP to have used the facility.

"My thanks also to the ward councillors who have been fully supportive of its use.”

The Creekmoor Park and Ride PCR testing centre opened in April 2020 and has carried out thousands of tests, with people travelling to the site from across Dorset with booked appointments.

A long-term member of staff at the facility, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We were given notice five weeks before March 31.

“It is such a shame. The site is huge and we have been providing an important service to the community.

“The site has provided about 300 jobs. What are older and vulnerable people going to do who find it difficult to get tests themselves. It is so easy for them to come to the drive through. It is just ridiculous.”

“We have been really, really busy for the past couple of weeks and we have been on skeleton staff.”

The test site worker said the council had only recently put up road signs directing vehicles to the facility.

They said the signs, which include at the Fleetsbridge roundabout, had only gone up on Monday, March 21, despite the impending closure of the test centre.

Dorset Echo: One of the recently installed road signs for the test siteOne of the recently installed road signs for the test site

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “Earlier this year the Government sought to change the licence to use the park and ride site to extend it to an end date of December 31, 2022. At the request of a ward councillor, the opportunity was taken to overcome issues with temporary signs being blown over by adding a few more permanent signs.

“The latest news related to a national withdrawal came after the installation had progressed and as now resulted in a change of timing for their withdrawal from site. No one foresaw that a national demobilisation would occur by April 2022.”

A spokesperson from UK Health Security Agency said: “From 1 April, free symptomatic tests for the general public will end. Instead, there will be limited symptomatic testing available to a small number of at-risk groups – further details on which groups will be eligible will be published in due course.

“As set out in Living with Covid, free symptomatic testing will remain for social care staff.

“As a result of the ending of free testing, from April 1 we will close all test sites, as well as limiting home ordering to those who will still be eligible for free symptomatic tests.”