Mass coronavirus testing to be rolled out to 66 more areas

Matt Hancock has confirmed mass coronavirus testing will be rolled out across 66 local authorities following a trial in Liverpool.

Mass testing began in the city last Friday with plans to test 50,000 people a day once it is fully operational. 

The plans are part of the Government ‘Operation Moonshoot’ which aims to bring the country out of the second lockdown by identifying more cases of the virus and getting people to self-isolate. 

Speaking on Sky News this morning, the Health Secretary said: ‘I can confirm that we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities.

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‘Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.

‘Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I’m now expecting a whole load more.

‘And, of course, across the devolved nations.’

During a Downing Street conference yesterday, Brigadier Joe Fossey said more than 2,000 troops had assisted with mass testing in Liverpool.

There are 19 testing sites across Liverpool with the military and officials working on plans to deliver more.

Brig Fossey said they were using lateral flow tests which were ‘very simple to use’ and return results ‘within the hour,’ without a need to be sent to a laboratory.

‘What we are trialling now is a possible route out of lockdown, and a way to get on with our lives,’ he added.

However, scientists have raised concerns over the scheme after one of the rapid tests, proposed for use in Liverpool, was found to have identified less than half of positive cases during earlier studies. 

Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, also warned that plans to test asymptomatic people went against advice to prioritise testing for those who were displaying symptoms.

A letter sent to the city’s MPs by academics said: ‘The potential for harmful diversion of resources and public money is vast.’

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