London, Nov 3 (PTI) Everyone living or working in Liverpool, north-west England, will be offered COVID-19 rapid testing whether they have symptoms or not as part of a pilot ahead of a wider rollout, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
He said the first pilot of city-wide testing in England was made possible by the dramatic increase in testing capacity and new technologies and will help find even more people with coronavirus to control the spread of the virus and gain more data on the number of cases across the city, starting this Friday.
Thousands of military personnel will also be brought in to help with the pilot.
“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,” said Johnson.
“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,” he said.
Residents and workers of the city, which is among the areas with the highest rate of infections, will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as new lateral flow tests.
These can rapidly turn around results within an hour without the need to be processed in a lab. Besides, LAMP [loop-mediated isothermal amplification] technology is also due to be deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for National Health Service (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, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
“Mass testing will help us to control this virus, by finding it even before people get symptoms. Using half a million of the very latest rapid tests, this rollout [in Liverpool] can help suppress the virus and give residents and workers some peace of mind,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The minister said that the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool’s Director of Public Health Matt Ashton will work hand in hand with dedicated armed forces to provide tests to anyone who wants one, supported by the NHS Test and Trace network.
“We are seeing a slow reduction in figures in Liverpool which shows we are on the right path and residents and businesses are working together and following guidelines for the greater good. We hope this new initiative boosts our efforts, and we will continue to see the numbers of positive cases drop across the city,” said Mayor Anderson.
Alongside NHS Test and Trace and commercial partners, the UK Ministry of Defence will provide roughly 2,000 personnel from Thursday to work on the programme.
“The military is uniquely placed to help with the fight against COVID-19 and remain ready to support with the mass testing initiative in Liverpool along with the additional needs of the country at this time,” said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
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 and 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.
The DHSC said that the greater the number of people who participate, the greater the accuracy of the local picture, which will mean better local decision-making to suppress the virus to help communities get back to doing more of the normal things they like to do.
The lateral flow tests being used in the pilot are intended to detect the presence or absence of coronavirus by applying a swab from the nose and throat to a special test kit and provide results without the need for a full-scale laboratory.
LAMP is a new type of testing technology which provides the ability to deliver significant volumes of tests.
In comparison, the PCR swab tests are the tests that have been used as the default so far. These tests look for the genetic code (RNA) of the virus through a swab of the throat and nose. However, the test only confirms if an individual who is showing symptoms of the virus currently has it and not whether they have had it and have now recovered. PTI AK NSA