Bus drivers and train conductors are among frontline transport staff now being tested for coronavirus in the West Midlands.
The testing will ensure safety of bus, train and Metro company staff and key workers, such as hospital staff, who are still using the network during the lockdown.
Frontline transport staff who fear they have Covid-19 or have come into contact with someone with symptoms can be tested and either isolated if the result is positive or safely return to work if it is negative.
This means the risk of passing infection to hospital and social care staff and other key workers still using public transport is reduced.
The tests have been arranged by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), working in collaboration with the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust and its chief executive Toby Lewis as well as the Department for Health and Social Care.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Key workers across the West Midlands are risking their lives day after day to protect us, and we need to do everything we can to keep them safe.
“I am pleased that following on from TfWM offering PPE to all frontline staff, we are now able to offer testing to key transport workers to allow them to continue to keep our transport network moving for essential journeys only.
“I hope this gives reassurance to both transport staff and the key workers still relying on public transport to get to and from work. I want to personally thank Toby and his team at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust for helping to make this happen.”
Toby Lewis added: “Transport workers provide vital public services, supporting key workers getting to and from work, which is why I’m delighted that the new regional testing centre, on the grounds of the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital site, is providing this essential testing.
“The drive-thru facility is also providing tests for social care, community healthcare and mental health colleagues, a critical part of our fight against COVID-19.”
People are reminded only to leave home and use public transport if absolutely necessary.
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “While most of us are staying at home and staying safe during this lockdown there are still many people going to work every day such as our blue light emergency services, social care staff and those keeping food, medicines and other essential supplies going.
“At TfWM we have worked closely with transport operators to keep the network running and now through greater testing of frontline staff we are able to better protect our staff and those passengers who still rely on our services.”
Testing of transport staff is currently focussed on those working in frontline roles including drivers and conductors, station staff including cleaners and security roles and ticket office staff. Tests will also be available for engineers and vehicle cleaning staff where possible.
Tests will be given to those showing symptoms (a persistent cough or high temperature) and those who live with or have been in direct contact with someone with symptoms.
The tests are being carried out at three venues in the West Midlands; Edgbaston Cricket Stadium, Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick and Six Ways Park and Ride at Worcester.