News, Policy & Media

12Jan

Government steps up roll-out of rapid COVID-19 testing

The Government has announced a wider roll-out of rapid COVID-19 across England. There will be a community testing regime initiated this week, covering all 317 local authorities. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that rapid lateral flow tests will be used, providing a positive or negative result within 30 minutes. He said that he hoped such a move towards rapid COVID-19 testing will break transmission rates within communities and lessen the skyrocketing number of cases in England.

Government has ramped up testing in care home settings and now in local communities. A public health message has also been issued which features English Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty. In the video, Whitty asks the public to act as if they already have the virus and comply with all guidance surrounding social distancing, hand-hygiene and isolation requirements. The Department of Health and Social Care said expanding the Community Testing Programme to more people without symptoms was "crucial given that around one in three people" who contract COVID-19 show no symptoms.

Hancock was quizzed by BBC’s Andrew Marr over the decision to use the lateral flow tests seen in Liverpool’s mass testing trial. There were strong concerns over the tests’ accuracies during the mass testing pilot and these are now to be used in this latest push for asymptomatic testing by Government. Hancock responded by saying that the use of the devices in mass asymptomatic testing in Liverpool had seen the case rate drop "more sharply than it did in other similar areas where only restrictions were brought in".

Rapid testing is set to expand in other areas. Many are already piloting regular workforce testing, with 15 large employers having taken up this offer already across 64 sites. DHSC has said that plans are underway for rapid testing of students and teachers in schools also.

 

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