People across Oxfordshire are being thanked for their continued willingness to abide by the national roadmap rules that have allowed a gradual easing of restrictions during March and early April.

This is reflected in the number of new cases in Oxfordshire, which although showing slight variations over the past fortnight, has now dropped to 33.1 per 100,000 of the population.

Alongside following the rules and the rollout of the vaccine, regular testing forms an essential part of the government’s roadmap plan. From 9 April, everyone in England will be able to access free, rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests for themselves and their families to use twice a week. This paves the way for businesses and society reopening.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health, said: “We’ve reached a new stage of navigating our way out of lockdown by being cautious and careful to keep the virus under control. However, the rules are only as good as people abiding by them. In the large majority of cases, that has happened, and we thank people for their efforts.

“Schools are now open, people are able to meet outdoors and on 12 April non-essential retail, beer gardens and libraries are to open. That’s real progress which has been achieved by individuals, families and friends taking responsibility for their own actions. You only need to think back to December and January to understand how much effort we’ve put in to getting this far.

“We would ask everyone to continue to take great care and abide by the rules as they change. The virus is still circulating and still presents a danger. We’ve all seen what happens when the virus is given opportunities – we had the rise in cases last autumn followed by the even larger rises in the winter. With more and more people being vaccinated we are consolidating our position against the virus every day – but it is a gradual process, not an overnight event.

“Alongside following the rules and the rollout of the vaccine, regular testing is an essential part of the easing of restrictions as it will help us quickly suppress the spread of variants. I would encourage everyone to get tested on a regular basis, even if you’ve had the vaccine.”

One in three people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately and help stop the spread.

The expanded regular testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered through:

  • Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
  • Secondary school and college testing on-site or through home test kits provided
  • Community testing at symptom-free sites
  • Collection of home test kits from any local testing site (symptom (PCR) sites and symptom-free sites)
  • A home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home.

A new ‘pharmacy collect’ service is also launching, which will provide an additional route to regular testing. Testing through all these routes is free.

For further information about the options available, visit NHS.UK/get-tested.

If testing at home, individuals need to register their results online or by calling 119.

Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate immediately and book asecond PCR test. A self-isolation information pack is available to provide advice and support.

If you test negative, you must continue to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask in public and regularly wash your hands.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or by calling 119.

What are the rule changes on 12 April?

  • More businesses will open, but indoor settings should be visited alone, or with household groups. Outside, six people or two households can meet.
  • All shops will be allowed to open
  • Hairdressers, beauty salons and other close-contact services can open
  • Restaurants and pubs will be allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors
  • Gyms and spas can reopen, as can zoos, theme parks, libraries and community centres
  • Members of the same household can take a holiday in England in self-contained accommodation
  • Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place
  • Funerals can be attended by up to 30 people.
  • Children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity
  • Care home visitors will increase to two per resident.