Hundreds queue in Liverpool as mass Covid testing pilot begins

6 November 2020, 15:53 | Updated: 6 November 2020, 16:02

By Ewan Somerville

Hundreds of people have formed queues outside testing centres in Liverpool as the city’s new pilot scheme began today.

Scores have been tested since centres opened at midday for a trial period lasting at least two weeks.

The city's mayor Joe Anderson said the pilot could save lives, stop hospitals being overwhelmed and “get the city out of tier three restrictions”.

Everyone living or working in Liverpool will be offered regular and repeat tests, whether or not they have symptoms.

LBC reporter Tom Dunn filmed queues of locals snaking back hundreds of metres as people waited to take a lateral flow test, which can deliver results in 20 minutes.

Read more: Liverpool Covid-19 testing pilot begins

Read more: NHS Test and Trace reaches fewest Covid contacts since launch

Hundreds queued at testing centres across Liverpool on Friday
Hundreds queued at testing centres across Liverpool on Friday. Picture: LBC

Hundreds were still queuing at a site in Wavertree at 3pm on Friday.

One local waiting in the queue told LBC: “We’ve been given the opportunity in Liverpool to try to save lives basically and we’ve got to do it, if it only saves a few lives we’ve got to take part in what has been offered to us.”

A 26-year-old man waiting in line added: “Obviously it’s going to be beneficial for Liverpool, the cases are extremely high and the more data we have the better. I’m relatively young compared to the majority of people here and we just need as many people to get [tested] as possible.”

Another told LBC: “The thing is they say this Test and Trace, the Government has got that wrong from the start.

"It’s never worked, and it’s not working now. So if people can [get] it in half an hour or three quarters of an hour instead of waiting and going 300 miles.

“Why anyone says we’re ‘guinea pigs’ or anything like that, I don’t understand where they’re coming from to be honest.”

Also in the queue was Veronica Atkinson, 71, who said she was a “bit apprehensive” but wanted to know the result. “I want to be able to go for Christmas dinner," she added.

The armed forces have been brought into the city to help deliver the scheme, which uses lateral flow tests to deliver results in under an hour for people who are not showing symptoms of the virus.

Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, standing joint commander for the UK, said: “We’ve brought up 2,000 soldiers from 17 different units, from 20 locations across the country, got them here in 48 hours, tested them, gave them training, issued their PPE and set up the first asymptomatic test centre here for Friday lunchtime.

“It has been a monumental effort but I’d say it is what we’re good at.”

He said at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool, where residents were queueing along the waterfront to have a test, 20 bays had been set up and soldiers in each of them would carry out six tests an hour, meaning thousands every day.

He said: “Everyone’s been just amazingly positive. The actual results speak for themselves here.”

Director of public health for Liverpool Matt Ashton said there was capacity for 85 centres to be set up by the end of the pilot scheme, which is due to last for 10 days initially, with the prospect of it being extended.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I think it’s logistically one of the biggest things that’s been undertaken for mass testing ever, certainly in the UK and possibly in Europe.

“So I’m really impressed, really grateful for everybody’s work and everybody’s efforts.”

He said he thought the trial would be a success and then hoped it would be rolled out across the country.