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Robert Jenrick tells LBC he 'doesn't know' how many tests are needed for Liverpool scheme
3 November 2020, 08:51 | Updated: 3 November 2020, 09:28
Robert Jenrick admitted on LBC that he 'doesn't know the exact number of tests' that will be needed to roll out the Government's mass Covid testing programme in Liverpool.
When pushed on how many tests will be available on Friday "if everybody in Liverpool wanted one", Mr Jenrick was unclear.
"I don't know the exact number," he admitted to Nick Ferrari. "But we have no reason to believe that is you ask for a test that would will have difficulty getting one."
It was announced yesterday that Liverpool will become the first city to offer its citizens regular coronavirus tests in a new mass testing pilot scheme.
Anyone living or working in the city can be tested regularly from Friday, even if they have no symptoms, in an approach which Boris Johnson said "has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against Covid-19".
The provision of around half a million new, rapid turnaround tests is happening at the request of and in close collaboration with local leaders, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Nick pushed the Minister further on the figures, asking if he knows the population on the city.
Mr Jenrick responded: "I don't know the exact figure, but I know that we want everyone who needs a test to come and get one. Those people who are running the programme are making those calculations.
"It will depend on how many people in Liverpool choose to take part in this, but we hope everyone in the city will get themselves tested and we think there will be enough capacity to do that."
Mr Jenrick told Nick that Liverpool had been chosen as it is "one of the areas of the country where the virus was a still is very concentrated."
It was also the first area of England to go into Tier 3 lockdown.
"There will be two thousand armed forces personnel on the streets of Liverpool helping with logistics and making sure it is very easy to get a test," Mr Jenrick said.
"It will be convenient, it will be fast and it will give people real confidence and enable us to get control of the virus."
Pushed by Nick on how frequent the "regular" testing will be, Mr Jenrick said: "You could get tested once a week I think."
Nick then questioned the logistics of this, stating: "Surely there will be a capacity issue. How many will you need by Friday?"
Mr Jenrick explained that "nationally, there are over 500,000 and this is increasing rapidly."
He also said that a large proportion of these tests will be dedicated to Liverpool.
"We don't expect there to be a capacity issue," he confirmed. "This is a big offer to the people of Liverpool and we will make sure the capacity is available."
Robert Jenrick also told LBC the Government wants to "learn from what happens in Liverpool" as a new rapid testing scheme is introduced with the hope of rolling it out nationwide "in the next few weeks and months".
Speaking to Nick Ferrari, the Housing Secretary said that "if it is a success", more areas could see an increase in rapid response tests rolled out.
"We are going to learn from what happens in Liverpool," Mr Jenrick explained.
"If it is a success, we will hope we can roll this out over the course of the next few weeks and months and that we could find millions of people having access to this before Christmas."
Testing will be carried out using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as new rapid turnaround lateral flow tests.
There will also be Lamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for NHS staff, promising to deliver significant volumes of tests.
The department said the pilot will help to "inform a blueprint for how mass testing can be achieved and how fast and reliable Covid-19 testing can be delivered at scale".
Testing will be carried out in new and existing sites across the city, including in hospitals, care home settings, schools, universities, workplaces and using at-home kits.
People can book a test online, by walk-up, or by invitation from the local authority and Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to "play their part" by getting a test.