Wokingham Borough Council has approved plans to spend £120,000 on private Covid-19 tests for key workers.

Councillor Charles Margetts, executive member for health, said the swab tests will be available next month but they will be “reserved for emergency situations”, such as a major outbreak.

The Conservative councillor said the council has decided to buy the tests due to “the inadequacies” in the NHS Test and Trace service, which is struggling to meet rising demand nationally.

Each swab test kit, which has a 12-month shelf life, costs around £105 and all results will be provided within 48 hours.

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The council agreed to buy the tests, but did not reveal the name of the private provider, at a council meeting on Thursday, September 24.

The council estimates it will need to purchase at least 1,000 test kits.

Cllr Margetts said: “We don’t know how long the national system will take to recover enough capacity so this seems to me like a sensible step to mitigate the risk to Wokingham residents.

“At the moment, cases of Covid in Wokingham are relatively low so between the national system, the local system and the back-up provision, we are trying to do all we can to make sure we are prepared for whatever may come.”

He added: “The price includes the whole testing service and not just the test kit.

“So it includes the kit, the courier to the lab, the lab processing and public health having access to the test results.”

In recent weeks, the strained NHS Test and Trace service has been prioritising areas of concern, which have high numbers of Covid-19 cases.

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But some people have struggled to get a test in Wokingham, which has a relatively low number of cases.

So far, 707 people have tested positive for the virus in Wokingham and 152 have died after contracting the virus.

Cllr Margetts: “It is imperative we target our declining resources to where they are most needed, which we believe to be the case with this critical testing initiative.”

During the meeting, he also described claims on social media that councillors and council workers will be the first to receive these tests as “absolute nonsense”.