Tests will be rolled out to more than 50 local authorities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced today that mass coronavirus testing is set to be rolled out in a number of UK cities, including Birmingham and other areas in the West Midlands. 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 as part of plans to expand coronavirus testing for those without symptoms.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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. 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.
Anyone displaying Covid-19 symptoms can still attend any of the existing centres or a mobile testing unit which can be booked via www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. 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 in the same way as 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.