Mass testing used in Liverpool to be rolled out to 66 other areas

Mass-Covid testing scheme adopted in Liverpool will be rolled out across 66 authorities including Nottingham, Matt Hancock reveals (so, is your town one of them?)

  • Matt Hancock said he had written to every director of public health in England
  • Sixty-six had responded with interest in the rapid testing scheme
  • Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands are among those to join

Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across 66 local authorities, the Health Secretary has revealed.

Matt Hancock said areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands will receive the new lateral flow tests.

London, Birmingham, Manchester and Coventry are among the cities to be sent a batch of tests, according to a Government announcement last night.

At least 600,000 lateral flow tests will be send out across the UK this week to kick-start the next stage of mass testing.

The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus – even if they have no symptoms – and the lateral flow technology can produce results within an hour.   

Lateral flow tests have been available since Friday for people who live and work in Liverpool, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus in the second wave.

The Merseyside city, home to 500,000 people, was the first to be involved with No10’s ambitious ‘Operation Moonshot’ –  a mass testing mission to screen millions of asymptomatic people every week in order to get life back to normal.

Nottingham is expected to be the next city to be involved with the mass-swabbing scheme,  as plans were reportedly being drawn up last night. 

Speaking on Sky News on Tuesday, Matt Hancock said mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across 66 local authorities

Lateral flow tests have been available since Friday for people who live and work in Liverpool, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus in the second wave. Two thousand soldiers were drafted in to assist with the pilot testing scheme (pictured)

Speaking on Sky News on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said 66 local authorities had already expressed an interest in the testing scheme and he was expecting more to sign up. 

WILL YOUR TOWN GET RAPID TESTS NEXT?

Later flow tests will be issued to directors of public health in the following local authorities in the coming days:

Barking and Dagenham

Bexley

Birmingham

Blackburn and Darwen

Blackpool

Bolton

Brent

Bristol

Bury

Calderdale

Camden

City of London

County Durham

Coventry

Darlington

Doncaster

Dudley

East Riding of Yorkshire

Enfield

Essex

Gateshead

Greenwich

Hackney

Halton

Hammersmith and Fulham

Hartlepool

Hertfordshire

Kingston upon Hull

Islington

Kensington and Chelsea

Kingston upon Thames

Knowsley

Lambeth

Lewisham

Luton

Manchester

Middlesborough

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newham

North Tyneside

Northumberland

Nottingham City

Nottinghamshire

Oldham

Redbridge

Redcar and Cleveland

Richmond upon Thames

Rochdale

Salford

Sefton

South Tyneside

Southwark

St Helen’s

Staffordshire

Stockport

Stockton-on-Tees

Sunderland

Tameside

Tower Hamlets

Trafford

Wakefield

Waltham Forest

Wandsworth

Warrington

Wigan

Wirral

Wolverhampton

Stoke on Trent, Liverpool and Lancashire have already been provided with lateral flow tests before this week.

He added: ‘I can confirm that we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities.

‘Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.

‘Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I’m now expecting a whole load more.’

Mr Hancock also said that mass testing, like a vaccine rollout, would be across the UK not just England.

He added: ‘The UK Government has bought the vaccine for the whole of the UK and it will be rolled out fairly across the whole of the UK with the same prioritisation no matter where you live in this country.

‘The same goes for mass testing, making sure we roll that out across the whole UK.’

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said the ‘much more versatile’ lateral flow tests would be rolled out in Nottinghamshire as well as ‘across Yorkshire, the West Midlands, other parts of the North West and the whole of the North East and other parts’.

It comes after the revelation last night that some 600,000 lateral flow test kits were to be issued to more than 50 directors of public health across England in the coming days. 

An initial batch of 10,000 will be followed up with a weekly allocation of the tests, reaching the equivalent to 10 per cent of the population, the Government announced.

Local health leaders will be able to determine the allocation of the tests based on the needs of their communities, and it is hoped that the rollout will enable priority and high-risk groups to be tested on a weekly basis.  

Discussions for Nottinghamshire to become the next region for mass coronavirus testing took place on Monday afternoon, according to reports. 

Stoke on Trent and Lancashire have already been provided with lateral flow tests before this week, the Government said.

London boroughs and the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle are among the places to be sent a bunch of tests from No10 this week.

Lateral flow tests have been available since Friday in Liverpool, where people who live and work there have been encouraged to get tested for Covid-19 even if they do not have symptoms.

A huge challenge of squashing the outbreak is to detect ‘silent carriers’ of the coronavirus so they can self-isolate before spreading the disease on further.  

Queues built up outside the new test centres with people waiting around 45 minutes outside the Liverpool Tennis Centre before it opened. Thera are now 16 testing sites across the city.

Liverpool’s director of public health, Matt Ashton, on Saturday said the mass testing was showing positive signs after thousands of people were tested on the first day of the pilot scheme.

The programme aims to test up to 50,000 people a day once fully operational, he added.

The city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, on Monday said around 162 people carrying the coronavirus had been detected through the scheme, who may otherwise not have been diagnosed.

This was 0.7 per cent of the 23,170 swabbed since midday on Friday. 

Cases are collected by NHS Test and Trace and those with a positive result must self-isolate along with their household immediately for at least 10 days. 

Liverpool’s director of public health, Matt Ashton, on Saturday said the mass testing was showing positive signs after thousands of people were tested on the first day of the pilot scheme.

The programme aims to test up to 50,000 people a day once fully operational, he added.

The city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, on Monday said around 162 people carrying the coronavirus had been detected through the scheme, who may otherwise not have been diagnosed.

This was 0.7 per cent of the 23,170 swabbed since midday on Friday. 

People queue at a coronavirus testing centre at the Liverpool Tennis Centre in Wavertree, part of the mass Covid-19 testing in Liverpool, Friday November 6

Soldiers at The Exhibition Centre in Liverpool, which is one of the testing centres part of the mass Covid-19 testing in Liverpool

Brigadier Joe Fossey, who is coordinating mass testing in Liverpool, told the Downing Street press conference on Monday night: ‘What we are trialling now is a possible route out of lockdown and a way to get on with our lives’. He is holding a lateral flow test

WHAT IS OPERATION MOONSHOT AND WHAT IS GOING ON IN LIVERPOOL? 

Operation Moonshot is the Government’s plan to get millions of people tested and given a result on the same day.

Tests would be routinely given to hospital staff, carers and swathes of the workforce to try and jump-start the economy. 

But there have been serious doubts about whether Number 10 is capable of pulling it off. 

Currently the Department of Health has a testing capacity of around 500,000.

And just 15 per cent of people who have an in-person test currently get a result within 24 hours.

Moonshot is seen as the only way out of the perpetual loosening and tightening of lockdown curbs without a viable vaccine.

LIVERPOOL

The city of 500,000 is being used by officials as a pilot to see if it can pull off rapid testing on a mass scale.

Tests which give results in about an hour will be used in the trial, as well as the normal PCR swab tests that are already used in centres across the country.

Hospitals in the city were originally supposed to have a 20-minute test at their disposal – to be used to routinely test all of their staff – but it emerged today the machines are less than 50 per cent accurate.

The tests will still be used in small a scheme on hospital staff in Liverpool but there are now worries that they aren’t good enough. 

Cases are collected by NHS Test and Trace and those with a positive result must self-isolate along with their household immediately for at least 10 days.

Last night Mr Johnson urged people in Liverpool to take part in the voluntary pilot scheme ‘for your friends, for your relatives, for your community’ in a bid to ‘drive the disease down’. 

He told a Downing Street press conference on Monday: ‘Our first pilot began in Liverpool on Friday in partnership with Liverpool City Council.

‘We’ve tested thousands of people there, but there’s still a lot more to do.

‘So please, if you are in Liverpool, get yourself along to a testing centre – there are 19 at the moment with more still to come and the more people get tested, the better we can protect that great city and drive the disease down in Liverpool.

‘So, do it for your friends, for your relatives, for your community.’

His comments were echoed by Brigadier Joe Fossey, who is coordinating mass testing in Liverpool. 

He told the press conference: ‘What we are trialling now is a possible route out of lockdown and a way to get on with our lives.’

Two thousand soldiers were drafted in to assist with the pilot testing scheme of around 500,000 residents in Liverpool. 

There have been serious doubts about how the scheme could be pulled off on a national scale if all towns and cities were to need the help of troops.

Using Liverpool as a reference – with 2,000 soldiers deployed per half a million residents – it would mean the UK would need to use 260,000 servicemen and women – more than three times the number of troops currently serving in the British Army (79,300), according to Statista.

But the pilot in Liverpool will only last for 10 days, suggesting soldiers will be moved around the UK depending on where the pop-up rapid testing is taking place. 

Lateral flow tests, which work like pregnancy tests and give results in under an hour, will be used along with existing PCR swab tests. 

Both work in ultimately the same way, amplifying genetic material then looking for signs of the virus.

But lateral flow devices have a lower specificity and sensitivity than PCR tests, meaning they aren’t as accurate at identifying true positive or negative coronavirus cases.

Lateral flow uses a different type of enzyme which allows the test to be done at one temperature, which makes it faster but less accurate.

PCR uses another type of enzyme and the process has to be repeated at different temperatures, which means it takes longer but is more accurate. 

PCR tests must also be read by a lab technician, which slows the process of getting a result back.

Fast turnaround times for test results are considered critical for a smooth contact tracing system.

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