Targeted community testing extended to 10 more areas

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Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

More local authorities to be offered rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests to detect asymptomatic cases and help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Large-scale community testing is a key part of the government’s COVID-19 Winter Plan to identify those with coronavirus earlier in order to break the chain of transmission and keep the virus under control.

The ten new areas join 106 others who are 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.

Around one in three people have coronavirus without symptoms so could be spreading the virus without knowing. It is believed targeted community testing of people with no symptoms will help identify positive cases more quickly and break chains of transmission.

The government say taking a targeted approach and working with local authorities aims to reduce the prevalence of the virus in the highest-risk areas. Local authorities have created community testing plans, based on their in-depth knowledge of their local community and detailed local data.

Targeted community testing is available for all local authorities in Tier 4, Tier 3 and those in Tier 2 at risk of going into Tier 3, with authorities invited to submit their application.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

I am pleased to confirm 10 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 1 in 3 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 116 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 10 additional areas that are rolling out community testing are:

  • Boston (Tier 3)
  • Calderdale (Tier 3)
  • City of Bristol (Tier 2)
  • Coventry (Tier 3)
  • Hartlepool (Tier 3)
  • Lincoln (Tier 3)
  • North Somerset (Tier 2)
  • Redcar and Cleveland (Tier 3)
  • South Gloucestershire (Tier 3)
  • Walsall (Tier 3)

Scientists at PHE Porton Down have rapidly evaluated the performance of the lateral flow device (LFD) tests against the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was recently identified across the South East of England. LFD tests successfully detected the samples with the variant.

NHS Test and Trace has capacity in place to respond to increases in demand and people can have confidence that if they have symptoms and need a test, they can get one. Additional capacity is in place with two new London University laboratories launched this week with a third due to go live by the weekend.

Health authorities say individuals should only book PCR tests if they have symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste. Anyone with one or more of these symptoms should get a test – or through the NHS COVID-19 app or by calling 119.

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