A BRIDGWATER testing centre will stay in place for longer after an extension was agreed.

The town hall has hosted a Covid testing centre since November, but it was due to close on Monday, September 6.

However, after a recent surge in cases which saw Sedgemoor have the highest infection rate in England, Bridgwater Town Council has agreed to keep the centre open until Friday, September 17.

The rate of infection in Sedgemoor now stands at 7,426 cases per 100,00 people.

In the 24 hours up to August 25, the number of confirmed positive tests in Sedgemoor was 98.

The council says that the extension will allow a new testing facility to be set up in the town.

Mayor of Bridgwater, Councillor Leigh Redman, said: "This week, due to the high number of positive cases in our town, we were able to work with Public Health & NHS Testing to agree a short extension to allow time for the new site to be set up and opened.

"Testing at the town hall will continue, and NHS testing will have a new pop-up test facility in place locally before then.

"Bridgwater Town Council will continue to work with all partners to ensure we can play our part in keeping our communities safe. Please follow the guidance and get a vaccine if you are offered one." 

Leader of the town council, Cllr Brian Smedley, has attributed the rise in Covid cases to the Government’s ‘Freedom Day’ relaxation of restrictions and the holiday season, which he says has brought more people to Bridgwater and surrounding areas, such as Brean and Burnham-on-Sea. 

He says there is a "significant spike" among people aged 15 to 34.

Councillor Smedley told Times Radio: "Covid numbers are rising across the south west, not just in Somerset.

"At the moment, the government is considering an enhanced response for areas such as ours.

"We already have Covid Marshals in action around the district and they are working with Licensing and Environmental Health, visiting premises and giving advice.

"On the positive side, the rate is slowing, and the hospitalisations remain low, as are numbers in ICU. As long as this correlation stays low, then it’s a testament to the success of the vaccination programme."

The council’s deputy leader, Cllr Kathy Pearce, said: "The key issue here is the vaccine gap. There’s a gap between the first and second jabs in young people.

"The night-time economy has opened up before young people have had their second jabs.

"Across the country the vaccination rate is 94% but here it’s 86% dropping to 61% in the youth age range regarding second jabs.

"We have raised this directly with public health - and there must be a campaign to encourage people to have second jabs and even, in some cases, the first."