Tests will be rolled out to more than 50 local authorities, including a number of London boroughs.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced today that mass coronavirus testing is set to be rolled out in a number of UK cities, including parts of London. This news comes after yesterday’s announcement that a Covid-19 vaccine with a 90% rate of effectiveness could arrive in the UK by Christmas.
The pilot scheme – which encourages everyone to get tested whether or not they have symptoms – launched in Liverpool on Friday, and will now be expanded to other major cities in the country. The Department of Health and Social Care said it was sending 600,000 of the rapid tests out to 66 local directors of public health this week, as part of plans to expand coronavirus testing for those without symptoms. Further tests will then be given in weekly allocations.
Each local authority will receive a batch of 10,000 antigen lateral flow devices as part of a new pilot to enable them to start testing priority groups. A lateral flow test (LFT) is a simple self-swab test for coronavirus which will give results in under an hour, and has already been piloted in Liverpool. Areas receiving the tests include twenty London boroughs – Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth – and the City of London.
The idea of mass testing is to find healthy people who may be infected, but not yet displaying symptoms, and they can then be told to isolate to avoid spreading the virus. Currently, across most of England, people can only have a test if they already have symptoms. During the Liverpool pilot, everyone living or working in the city is being offered a voluntary test, with more than 23,000 residents and workers in the area tested since Friday. Now, that pilot will be rolled out across England, with Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham, and Newcastle amongst the other areas picked for mass testing. Meanwhile, Covid tests for students in England – which would allow them to go home safely for Christmas – could begin on November 30, according to a letter from the universities minister to vice chancellors.
Anyone currently displaying Covid-19 symptoms can still attend any of the existing centres or a mobile testing unit which can be booked here. Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate along with their household immediately, and their contacts will be traced. Eligible individuals who test positive – and contacts who are required to self-isolate – will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment to supplement any lost income, in the same way as those taking a regular swab test ordered through NHS Test and Trace.
You can find out more information about mass coronavirus testing and which local authorities will be receiving tests here.