Everyone living or working in Liverpool will be offered regular covid-19 tests in the first whole city programme in the country – with rapid turnaround tests available across the city from Friday.
Two thousand military personnel will arrive in the city later this week to roll-out a huge programme of hundreds of thousands of tests as Liverpool becomes the centre of the government’s new strategy to fight the virus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked of rapid mass testing as offering a “moonshot” solution which could help bring the UK out of the coronavirus crisis – and the key plan will begin in Liverpool this week.
Local leaders have been working with government and put the city forward for the crucial pilot programme in the hope it will drive down infection levels and potentially mean an easing of restrictions before Christmas.
Liverpool residents and workers will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as new lateral flow tests, which can rapidly turn around results within an hour without the need to be processed in a lab, as well as ‘LAMP’ technology due to be deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for 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.
If successful in Liverpool, the programme will be rolled out across the rest of the city region and then in other areas of the country.
It is hoped that the mass testing programme will give cities, like Liverpool in this first instance, a much clearer picture of the number of cases in any one area, enabling local leaders to make informed decisions to manage the spread of the virus and support local people.
The more people who get tested, the greater the accuracy of the local picture, which it is hoped will allow local decisions to be made about how to fight the virus and how to potentially allow people in the city to start to get back to some normal activities.
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.
Testing will be carried out in new and existing test sites, using home kits, in hospitals and care home settings, and schools, universities and workplaces.
Positive results from tests will be collected by NHS Test and Trace and published as part of the daily case numbers, including how many positive cases are detected with this new method of testing.
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.
Those who test negative will need to continue to follow all national guidance.
These more advanced tests will help identify infectious individuals who are not displaying symptoms and help identify far more positive cases so they can self-isolate and prevent the virus from spreading, in a first step towards rolling out mass testing more widely across the UK.
Those who test positive – and contacts who are required to self-isolate – will be entitled to the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment in the same way as a regular swab test ordered through NHS Test and Trace.
Around 2,000 military personnel supporting the huge testing programme will arrive in Liverpool from Thursday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank the civic leaders of Liverpool for volunteering to join the UK’s first city-wide population testing pilot and the people of Liverpool for taking part.
“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.
“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.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Last month we set out our ambition to use the latest mass testing technologies to bring this virus under control.
“Mass testing will help us to control this virus, by finding it even before people get symptoms.
“I’m delighted we can now roll out mass testing to whole cities – starting with the City of Liverpool.
“Using half a million of the very latest rapid tests, this rollout can help suppress the virus and give residents and workers some peace of mind.
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“I want to thank local leaders, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, and Liverpool’s Director of Public Health Matt Ashton, who will continue to work hand in hand with our dedicated Armed Forces to provide tests to anyone who wants one, fully supported by NHS Test and Trace.
“Everyone in Liverpool can help play their part by getting a test and following the rules, including the critical basics of hands, space, face.”
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “During negotiations with central government, myself and Steve Rotheram have always highlighted the need for enhanced public health intervention measures in Liverpool and the wider city region, and we were keen that we should be considered for any new strategies to tackle the worrying rise in Covid-19.
“We are pleased that our numerous conversations have resulted in Liverpool becoming a pilot for mass testing, which will help to quickly identify people who have the virus and reduce transmission substantially.
“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.”
Liverpool City Council will set out how residents and workers will be able to access the tests this week.