Rapid Covid-19 tests to be rolled out to 17 more areas in England

23 December 2020, 00:02

People queue at a COVID-19 testing centre at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon
People queue at a COVID-19 testing centre at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

Rapid Covid-19 tests are set to be rolled out to another 17 local council areas across England in a bid to stem rising infection rates.

Quick-turnaround lateral flow tests will be used to help detect asymptomatic cases with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus in Tier 3 areas such as Newcastle, Coventry and Walsall and Tier 2 Bristol.

Public Health England scientists at Porton Down have also confirmed lateral flow tests "successfully detected samples" with the new variant of Covid-19 which is spreading rapidly in London and South East England.

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The 17 new areas join 106 others already signed up to roll out rapid community testing in December or January, including some areas which are now in Tier 4 such as London and Medway in Kent.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged members of the public to take a test if they are offered one by public health teams.

He added: "I am pleased to confirm 17 more local authorities will soon be rolling out enhanced community testing programmes as part of our plan to pick up more cases, more quickly.

"Working together we will help areas where levels of the virus are highest to reduce their infection rates and break the chains of transmission.

"Roughly one in three people with coronavirus show no symptoms and so it's essential we broaden testing to help identify those who are infected and infectious, unaware they may be spreading the disease.

"We are rolling out community testing more widely at a rapid pace, with 123 areas now planning to take part.

"If you are offered community testing in your local area, I would strongly encourage you to take up this opportunity to get tested and protect your local community."

The Government said targeted community testing of people with no symptoms will help identify positive cases more quickly and break chains of transmission, and is available for all local authorities in Tier 4, Tier 3, and in Tier 2 at risk of going into Tier 3, with authorities invited to submit applications.

The 17 additional areas that are rolling out community testing are:

Tier 3: Boston, Calderdale, County Durham, Coventry, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Lincoln, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Redcar and Cleveland, South Gloucestershire, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Walsall.

Tier 2: Bristol and North Somerset.