Plans to site a Covid-19 testing centre inside a Southport arcade busy with restaurants and bars have been criticised by MP Damien Moore.
The Southport MP is urging Sefton Council to urgently rethink its plans and move the centre at The One Stop in Cambridge Arcade to a more suitable location.
Mr Moore said: “I have been contacted today by a number of restaurant and bar owners in the arcade who are horrified at the prospect of people who suspect they have Covid-19 queueing up past families sitting down to enjoy their lunch to get into the One Stop and get tested for the virus.
“These independent local businesses are working very hard to bring back trade after three months of being in lockdown and opening a Covid testing centre right next to them is a baffling decision.
“I fully support the idea of providing opportunities for people in Southport to be tested for Coronavirus but this planned facility needs to be moved elsewhere.”
”One local business owner in the arcade said: “The shops, bars and restaurants are very concerned that the One Stop Shop is being turned into a Covid testing centre.
“Should a testing centre be in an enclosed arcade in the town centre? The people being tested could come in for their last chance beer or meal.
“We are also concerned that other people will either consciously or subconsciously avoid the arcade and our businesses, which we are working very hard to build back up.
“The arcade is actually a no-smoking zone so if you can't smoke in that area for the protection of others is it wise to let potential Covid carriers down there?”
The Covid testing site would be run by a private sector operator and is due to prepared on Tuesday and open on Wednesday next week (August 5).
Attendance at the test site would be by appointment, with any queues due to be ‘monitored’ by staff at the centre.
Damien Moore said: “Four businesses have now contacted me this afternoon to outline their concerns.
“The provision of local testing sites is important to tackle the spread of Covid-19 - neither myself nor those businesses I have spoken to would disagree with the spirit in which the sites have been put forward.
“However, whilst the provision of sites is approved by the Department of Health and Social Care and their private-sector providers are the decision-makers on the suitability of the final location and set-up, I am disappointed that this location was put forward in the first instance.
“It is exceedingly clear that this is not an appropriate location to encourage those with symptoms of Covid-19 to attend, even with the social distancing guidelines outlined.
“The publicity of this testing site alone will have a significant and lasting impact on those businesses who have already experienced a difficult few months in trading. Furthermore, the suggestion that a queue would be 'monitored' is simply not good enough - this is a closely confined arcade with a number of food venues.
“There are plenty of other sites in Southport that would have been easily accessible and better-suited.
“I would strongly encourage Sefton Council to reconsider the suitability of this site and to relocate it.”