News, Policy & Media

10Nov

Rapid COVID-19 testing expanded across the UK

The rapid coronavirus tests that are being rolled out for use in Liverpool’s mass testing pilot scheme will now be rolled out across local authorities and cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. The move comes as part of the Prime Minister’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ programme which aims at making mass testing part of daily life across the UK. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has said mass testing, like that seen in Liverpool, would be rolled out across 66 local authorities. Hancock has written to leaders of all local health authorities in England to say that the 15-minute-result tests can be made available to directors of public health across the country. 10,000 tests will be sent to these authorities with flexibility on how they are rolled out. Councils will then be offered weekly allocations of lateral flow tests to cover 10 per cent of their populations, in a process which the Department of Health and Social said would kick-start a “significant expansion” of testing across the country.

Sixty-six percent of the local health leaders expressed interest in the first instance and Hancock is expecting more responses in the coming period. The UK’s 2.4 million university students will receive testing in the first week of December, in a bid to allow them to return home safely for Christmas. After Liverpool, Nottingham is expected to be the next city to undergo a mass testing scheme. 23,170 people were tested over the weekend in the city, with 0.7% testing positive according to Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson. The DHSC said on Monday that Liverpool has now set up 16 sites for asymptomatic testing, a number of mobile test units and is delivering home testing kits across the city.

In addition to asymptomatic public virus testing, the Government has rolled out its healthcare staff testing programme further by offering bi-weekly tests. The first 34 trusts should receive kit for asymptomatic testing by the end of this week, “benefitting 250,000 staff”. An England-wide roll-out for healthcare staff is to follow by the end of next week and LAMP-technology testing will begin in December. NHS Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Testing twice weekly helps mitigate the sensitivity considerations, and to mitigate the lower specificity, all positive results will be retested via PCR.”

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