Liverpool has been selected to pilot a new mass testing programme – with everyone living and working in the city set to be offered a free COVID-19 test.
The armed forces will be stepping into the North West region from Friday (6 November) to deliver the scheme – which will see more than half a million people given the opportunity to take a coronavirus test.
The pilot has been set up to determine whether mass screening is feasible across the UK – a concept first outlined as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘Operation Moonshot’.
Back in September, the Prime Minister floated the notion of making tests so readily available that UK citizens could enjoy a ‘freedom pass‘ to interact with others.
Now, as England prepares for a second lockdown, the government is embarking on its mission to create a “powerful new weapon in [the] fight against COVID-19.”
All test subjects will receive a combination of swab tests – already in wide use across England – and lateral flow tests, which can use nose-and-mouth swabs or saliva and produce results in 15 minutes.
The aim of the pilot is to determine whether testing at such high speed and scale is viable and effective.
If successful, mass testing will then be rolled out across the rest of the Liverpool city region and into other areas.
High risk regions with many cases, such as Greater Manchester, may be the next on the list to receive mass testing.
The first batch of tests will be carried out in a mixture of settings – including new and existing test sites, as well as hospitals, care homes, schools, universities and workplaces.
Anyone who tests positive will receive a text or email from NHS Track and Trace and will be asked to self-isolate.
This isolation period – currently 14 days – may also be reduced to 10 or seven days this week.
Discussing the pilot scheme, the PM stated: “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.”