Mass Covid testing will be rolled out across 66 local authorities in England, the Health Secretary has confirmed.
Matt Hancock said he wrote to every director of public health in England on 9 November to make the new rapid turnaround lateral flow tests available, which can deliver results within an hour.
Liverpool mass testing pilot
Lateral flow tests are currently being used in the Liverpool mass testing pilot. Anyone living or working in the city can now be tested regularly for coronavirus, even if they have no symptoms, with follow-up tests every couple of weeks.
Liverpool’s director of public health, Matt Ashton, said that the testing was showing positive signs so far, after thousands of people were tested on the first day of the pilot scheme.
A total of 23,170 people have been tested for Covid-19 in the city since midday on Friday 6 November, with 0.7 per cent testing positive. The program aims to test up to 50,000 people a day, once it is fully operational.
The next areas to begin mass testing
This mass testing programme is now to be rolled out across England, with areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, the West Midlands, other parts of the North West and the whole of the North East to receive the new tests.
Speaking on Sky News on 10 November, Mr Hancock said 67 local authorities have already expressed an interest in the tests and he was expecting more to sign up.
He commented, “I can confirm that we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities.
“Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.
“Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I’m now expecting a whole load more.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DSHC) has released the following list of areas to be issued with the antigen lateral flow devices:
Barking and DagenhamBexleyBirminghamBlackburn and DarwenBlackpoolBoltonBrentBristolBuryCalderdaleCamdenCity of LondonCounty DurhamCoventryDarlingtonDoncasterDudleyEast Riding of YorkshireEnfieldEssexGatesheadGreenwichHackneyHaltonHammersmith and FulhamHartlepoolHertfordshireKingston upon HullIslingtonKensington and ChelseaKingston upon ThamesKnowsleyLambethLewishamLutonManchesterMiddlesbroughNewcastle upon TyneNewhamNorth TynesideNorthumberlandNottingham CityNottinghamshireOldhamRedbridgeRedcar and ClevelandRichmond upon ThamesRochdaleSalfordSeftonSouth TynesideSouthwarkSt Helen’sStaffordshireStockportStockton-on-TeesSunderlandTamesideTower HamletsTraffordWakefieldWaltham ForestWandsworthWarringtonWiganWirralWolverhampton
Not just in England
Mr Hancock explained as with vaccine rollout, mass testing would be implemented across the whole of the UK, not just England.
The UK has recently secured 40 million doses of a potential Covid vaccine from pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has been found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing the virus during a major trial.
This vaccine has been bought by the UK government for the whole of the UK and will be rolled out fairly across the country with the same prioritisation, no matter where people live. The same approach will apply to mass testing.