Everyone living or working in Liverpool is set to be offered Covid-19 testing, whether they’re displaying symptoms or not, as part of a new whole city testing programme – the first in England – which has been made possible due to increased testing capacity and advances in the technology.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, at the request of and in close collaboration with local leaders, the first deployment of whole city testing to help support the identification of more people with coronavirus in the community, allowing for more thorough tracking of infections through the city and better control over the spread.
Testing is set to begin this week.
Liverpool has been particularly heavily hit by the recent second wave of Covid-19, with the highest number of cases per 100,000 in the UK, and was the first regions placed in Tier 3 restrictions prior to the announcement of the second national lockdown.
Residents and workers will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as new lateral flow tests which can rapidly turn around results within an hour without the need to be processed in a lab, as well as LAMP technology due to be deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for NHS staff.
The pilot will help to inform a blueprint for how mass testing can be achieved and how fast and reliable Covid-19 testing can be delivered at scale.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank the civic leaders of Liverpool for volunteering to join the UK’s first city-wide population testing pilot and the people of Liverpool for taking part.
“These tests will help identify the many thousands of people in the city who don’t have symptoms but can still infect others without knowing. Dependent on their success in Liverpool, we will aim to distribute millions of these new rapid tests between now and Christmas and empower local communities to use them to drive down transmission in their areas.
“It is early days, but this kind of mass testing has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against Covid-19.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Last month we set out our ambition to use the latest mass testing technologies to bring this virus under control.
“Mass testing will help us to control this virus, by finding it even before people get symptoms. I’m delighted we can now roll out mass testing to whole cities – starting with the City of Liverpool. This rollout can help suppress the virus and give residents and workers some peace of mind.
“I want to thank local leaders, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, and Liverpool’s Director of Public Health Matt Ashton, who will continue to work hand in hand with our dedicated armed forces to provide tests to anyone who wants one, fully supported by NHS Test and Trace.”
“Everyone in Liverpool can help play their part by getting a test and following the rules, including the critical basics: ‘Hands. Face. Space’.”
Testing will be carried out in sites across the city, including a large number of new sites determined by local leaders. There will be a variety of ways to book a test, including online, walk-up, or by invitation from the local authority. Testing will be carried out in new and existing test sites, using home kits, in hospitals and care home settings, and schools, universities and workplaces.
Positive results from tests will be collected by NHS Test and Trace, and published as part of the daily case numbers, including how many positive cases are detected with this new method of testing. Results will be received from NHS Test and Trace via text and email.
Anyone who tests positive, using either a lateral flow test or an existing swab test, must self-isolate along with their household immediately and their contacts will be traced. Those who test negative will need to continue to follow all national guidance.
These more advanced tests will help identify infectious individuals who are not displaying symptoms and help far more positive cases so they can self-isolate and prevent the virus from spreading, in a first step towards rolling out mass testing more widely across the UK.