ass testing could be rolled out in London if a trial scheme in Liverpool proves to be a “game changer”, officials said today.
Citizens in the northern city are to be offered free instant tests this week and next, in the first trial of a system that could identify carriers without symptoms and liberate others from having to self-isolate unnecessarily.
“I hesitate to use the word game changer because it gets over-used, but it is a significant step forward in the testing arena,” said Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, and a government adviser on life sciences.
Government officials say there will be no decision for weeks on whether weekly mass testing will be needed in London, where the pandemic is much less extensive than the North. The R rate in the capital is about 1.1 to 1.3 according to Office for National Statistics figures. London is seeing 150 cases per 100,000 population compared with 450 in northern cities.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Radio 4’s Today show: “If this is a success, and I hope that everyone in Liverpool will get behind it, then we would like to roll this out in more towns and cities in the weeks ahead.”
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said mobile testing units would be put in 30 locations around the city by the Army, which is in charge of logistics.
New rapid turnaround tests will be used alongside existing swab tests and Lamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology for NHS staff.
The Department of Health said details would be released by Liverpool council this week on how residents can access tests and did not give further information on how regular testing would be.