Covid: Mass testing for 67 local areas in England

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Soldiers have been brought in to help with the mass testing programme in Liverpool

Mass testing for coronavirus will be rolled out to 67 more areas in England, the health secretary has said.

Areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and parts of the West Midlands will receive new rapid "lateral flow" tests.

Matt Hancock said he hoped the new tests would find Covid-19 "wherever it is, especially in those high prevalence areas".

The Department of Health and Social Care said it was sending 600,000 of the rapid tests out to directors of public health in 67 areas - listed below - as part of plans to expand asymptomatic testing for Covid-19.

Mr Hancock said they would be used to test 10% of an area's community each week. Overall, 70 areas will have the new tests.

Mass testing, like any potential vaccine, will be made available to the devolved administrations, and not just in England, the health secretary said.

A further 20,412 coronavirus cases were reported in the UK on Tuesday, with another 532 deaths within 28 days of a positive test recorded. 234,079 coronavirus tests were processed in the UK on Monday.

No 'silver bullet'

News of the scheme came as the head of England's Test and Trace programme, Baroness Dido Harding, told MPs the service was not a "silver bullet" to tackle coronavirus.

The Conservative peer revealed that preliminary data showed a little over half of people - 54% - who were asked to self-isolate for 14 days said they had complied with the rules.

"Much as I would love that testing and tracing on its own would be a silver bullet to holding back the tide of Covid, unfortunately the evidence in the UK and in every other country in Europe is that's not the case," she said.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the NHS was ready to start providing the new coronavirus vaccine "as fast as safely possible".

And Covid tests for students in England, so they can go home safely for Christmas, could begin on 30 November, according to a letter from the universities minister to vice chancellors.

Mass testing means asking everyone to be tested, whether or not they have symptoms.

The idea is to find healthy people who may be infected, but not yet displaying symptoms. 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. But during the Liverpool pilot, everyone living or working in the city is being offered a voluntary test.

More than 23,000 residents and workers in the area have been tested since Friday.

As well as the normal swab tests, the mass-testing schemes use rapid "lateral flow" tests. These also use a swab but do not need to be sent to a lab and can give results within an hour.

In a statement, Mr Hancock said the "new, rapid" technology means "we can detect this virus quicker than ever before, even in people who don't have symptoms".

He added: "Mass testing is a vital tool to help us control this virus and get life more normal."

As part of the latest plans, each local area will receive a batch of 10,000 lateral flow tests, DHSC said.

Local public health directors will then decide how people in the local area are tested, and how to prioritise the allocation of the tests based on the specific needs of their communities.

The initial 600,000 batch will then be followed up with a weekly allocation of lateral flow antigen tests.

According to DHSC, areas were prioritised for the scheme based on the local prevalence of the virus and expressions of interest to the department.

Which areas will get the new tests?

  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Bexley
  • Birmingham
  • Blackburn and Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Bolton
  • Brent
  • Bristol
  • Bury
  • Calderdale
  • Camden
  • City of London
  • County Durham
  • Coventry
  • Darlington
  • Doncaster
  • Dudley
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Enfield
  • Essex
  • Gateshead
  • Greenwich
  • Hackney
  • Halton
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Hartlepool
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kingston upon Hull
  • Islington
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Knowsley
  • Lambeth
  • Lewisham
  • Luton
  • Manchester
  • Middlesbrough
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Newham
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland
  • Nottingham City
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oldham
  • Redbridge
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Richmond upon Thames
  • Rochdale
  • Salford
  • Sefton
  • South Tyneside
  • Southwark
  • St Helen's
  • Staffordshire
  • Stockport
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Sunderland
  • Tameside
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Trafford
  • Wakefield
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Warrington
  • Wigan
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton

Stoke on Trent, Liverpool and Lancashire have already been provided with lateral flow tests.

Source: DHSC

On Friday, queues built up outside the new test centres in Liverpool, which opened at midday, with people waiting around 45 minutes outside the city's Tennis Centre - one of the six facilities - before it opened.

Liverpool's director of public health, Matt Ashton, on Saturday said the mass testing was showing positive signs after thousands of people were tested on the first day of the pilot scheme.

The programme aims to test up to 50,000 people a day once fully operational, he added.

The city's mayor, Joe Anderson, on Monday said 23,170 people have been tested for coronavirus in the city since midday on Friday, with 0.7% testing positive.

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