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600,000 rapid coronavirus tests to be sent to local authorities this week
9 November 2020, 23:05
More than half a million rapid Covid-19 tests will be sent to public health authorities this week to help detect asymptomatic cases, the Health Secretary has confirmed.
600,000 lateral flow tests, which can deliver Covid test results in an hour, will be issued to more than 50 directors of public health across England in the coming days.
The first batch will be followed in subsequent weeks with a weekly allocation of the tests, equivalent to 10 per cent of the population.
Local health leaders will be able to determine the allocation of the tests based on the needs of their communities.
The aim of the rollout is to enable priority and high-risk groups to be tested on a weekly basis.
Read more: Pfizer's Covid-19 drug '90% effective'
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Last week we rolled out mass testing in Liverpool using new, rapid technology so we can detect this virus quicker than ever before, even in people who don’t have symptoms."
He continued: "Mass testing is a vital tool to help us control this virus and get life more normal.
"I am delighted to say 10,000 of these tests will now be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to over 50 directors of public health as part of our asymptomatic testing strategy.
"I want to thank all directors of public health for their support and efforts over the past months to help us tackle this virus, bring it under control and get the country back to what we love doing."
Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, added: "I am delighted that as part of our expansion of testing we are able to partner with local authorities to deliver these new rapid turnaround tests to our local communities.
"Building on national capacity of 500,000 tests a day we are now moving to the next stage of testing tailored around the individual needs of local areas with control in the hands of local directors of public health.
"There has been a huge amount of work to develop these new testing capabilities and I want to thank colleagues across NHS Test and Trace, Public Health England and the wider scientific community for ensuring that we are one of the first countries in the world who are able to deploy these new tests for the benefit of our public," she added.
The news comes after trials showed a vaccine candidate to be 90 per cent effective with 10 million doses set to become available for the UK by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK is 'front of the pack' for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine if it proves a success.
The Prime Minister said the UK stands to get 40 millions doses of the vaccine if it is approved for use in the coming weeks.
But he warned that if the vaccine is approved it would not be enough to suppress the ongoing second wave."Right now the message is 'stand fast' rather than get too overexcited about where we are," he added.
"Frankly, we're in the middle of the second wave, and I don't see the vaccine making any difference for the wave we are now in," he said.
"I'm hopeful that it may prevent future waves, but this one we have to battle through to the end without a vaccine."
At the same press conference, Brigadier Joe Fossey explained how lateral flow Covid tests that 'return results within an hour' will be used in the Liverpool mass testing scheme.
Brigadier Fossey also explained how soldiers will help organise Liverpool's mass coronavirus testing programme, which began on Friday.
The scheme, the first pilot in the UK, gives anyone living or working in the city the option of regular testing even if they have no symptoms.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the scheme as "having the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against Covid-19".
2,000 Armed Forces personnel have already been deployed to Liverpool to aide the mass testing.
Brigadier Fossey spoke about how the new lateral flow tests and are simple to use and similar to the swab test.
He said: "This is a lateral flow test and these are the tests we are using in Liverpool and they are very simple to use.
"You will all know what a swab looks like, you will be in an enclosed booth, you put the swab in your mouth then your nose and give it back to the soldier who will complete the test.
"The new piece of equipment is this, a two-inch bit of plastic which is this lateral flow device that produces a speedy result.
"I've taken one this morning to make sure it was Covid-free; the test returns the results within the hour without the need of a lab."