A DEDICATED walk-through Covid-19 testing site opens in Birkenhead today.

The semi-permanent facility, in the car park of the Hamilton Building in Conway Street, will be open for testing from 2-5pm.

Its aim is to improve access for the whole community, especially those who do not have access to a car or should not be using public transport because they have symptoms.

Users will be asked to self-swab when attending.

Unlike Mobile Testing Units, it will be open for several months to ensure accessible testing is continually available.

The site will have 12 testing bays, accommodating approximately 288 tests per day.

LTS appointments can be booked at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. Alternatively, you can attend the LTS without an appointment.

Opening times for this weekend are:

Saturday: 2-5pm

Sunday: 10am-5pm

From Monday: 8am-8pm, then seven days per week.

The LTS opening comes as figures reveal a sharp rise in Wirral's weekly coronavirus infection rate in the past week.

New data from Public Health England shows the borough saw 96 new cases in the seven days to August 31, resulting in an infection rate of 29.6 per 100,000 people.

That's more than double the 45 positive Covid-19 cases recorded in the previous seven days to August 24.

It means Wirral has the 20th highest infection rate in the country for the seven days to August 31.

There have been 2,259 total coronavirus cases in the borough since the pandemic began in March. This includes positive cases, recoveries and deaths.

Wirral Council leader, Cllr Pat Hackett, said: "The opening of this new local testing site is vitally important to ensure we prevent the spread of coronavirus in Wirral.

"We have seen a sharp increase in positive cases in the Borough over the last few weeks and by having increased testing capacity right in the heart of our communities we can make sure that people experiencing symptoms can get a test when they need it with or without an appointment.

I would like to thank the community representatives who worked with us to make sure the facility will best serve the people of Birkenhead and Wirral.

"This site is set to be closely followed by others in Bebington and Wallasey later this month and we will continue to work closely with our communities to ensure that all of the testing availability is used in the best possible way to keep Wirral well."

Regional testing director for Cheshire and Merseyside, Terry Whalley, said: "This additional capacity is great for Wirral and the whole of Cheshire and Merseyside.

"Having more semi-permanent LTSs in Cheshire and Merseyside means that we will be able to use other testing facilities more flexibly and be able to deploy them in a more targeted way in the future.

"This will help the directors of public health, and other professionals have a greater say in how testing is used and deployed in their own area.

"Having this extra capacity, more permanently, means that we can respond and react in a much more targeted way with other testing resources, should we see local outbreaks or other urgent needs.

"Such decisions can now be made in the knowledge that there are more testing sites in Cheshire and Merseyside to rely on day to day.

"We will carefully study the use of these new sites as we look to roll out further testing capability across Cheshire and Merseyside in our bid to continue protecting lives and livelihoods."

In addition to the LTC, a mobile coronavirus testing will operate, on an appointment only basis at Bebington Civic Way car park on Saturday 5 and Sunday.

It then head to Europa Leisure Centre in Birkenhead, where it will be in operation from next Wednesday to Saturday.

The mobile testing unit is in addition to Wirral's satellite testing centre in Bidston.

For the latest information, and to book a test visit www.wirral.gov.uk/test

Further dates and locations for the mobile testing unit in Wirral will be announced soon.