Liverpool to trial mass COVID-19 testing
Liverpool is due to be the subject of the UK’s first pioneering attempt at mass COVID-19 testing. It has been announced that the trial will begin on Friday and involve testing for the virus being offered to all residents of the city, whether or not they are currently experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Follow-up testing services will also be offered to the individuals every two weeks or so. In Liverpool, the latest figures show the city recorded 352 cases per 100,000 in the week up to 30 October. In comparison, the average area in England had 153.
Varying methods of testing will be used in the pilot mass testing scheme. These include saliva tests, swabs from the nose/throat and testing using LAMP technology. The latter method will be employed in testing NHS health workers and will be processed in Liverpool University Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust. People who test positive will receive a text or email from NHS test-and-trace staff and will be asked to self-isolate and share details of close contacts. The Prime Minister has stressed the importance that people self-isolate if instructed to do so, this is vital to ensure case numbers are driven down and proper data are collected.
The Italian municipality of Vo was the site of the first successful example of mass testing for coronavirus. The small town near Venice tested all its 3,000 inhabitants, whether or not they had symptoms. Within a couple of weeks, the virus had been eradicated from the commune. In Liverpool, around 2,000 military personnel have been drafted in to assist with the deployment of mass testing services. Regius Professor of Medicine from Oxford University, Sir John Bell, praised the new rapid tests which, along with other types, will be utilised in identifying positive cases. He said that the rapid tests have an accuracy level of 99.9% and a turnaround time of 15-20 minutes. The results of the pilot scheme will feed into feasibility projections of mass testing in other UK areas. It will also reveal if the new rapid tests are destined for further deployment. "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”, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.