Not every Tier 3 region may get access to mass testing at once, a Minister has suggested – despite a promise by Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister had offered every area in Tier 3 lockdown a “six week surge of testing” like in Liverpool, where every resident could get a rapid Covid-19 test, to escape the toughest restrictions.
But it’s since emerged 41% of the country is in Tier 3 – leading to questions about how it will be logistically possible.
Today Tory Robert Jenrick admitted there would need to be a “priority” system if every Tier 3 area asked for testing at the same time.
The Communities Secretary told Sky News: “Those places that are in Tier 3 now have the opportunity to do the same as Liverpool did which is to do mass community testing.
“So we’re asking any local authority in those places to come to us, say if they’d like to be part of that and then we wail provide them not just with the tests but expertise and… military support.
“And if all of the country that’s in Tier 3 wanted to do it, then we would work on a priority basis.”
Mr Jenrick did not give any more detail about how that “priority” system would work. More details are due next week.
2,000 troops were used in Liverpool alone, and the new Tier 3 areas have a population almost 50 times bigger than the city.
14,000 troops are being held at readiness by the Ministry of Defence, only seven times the number used in Liverpool.
The Cabinet minister said: “Certainly the councils that have approached me so far – Kirklees, for example in West Yorkshire who said they’d be very interested – we’re working with them now at pace to try to get them the resources and make a success of it.”
The government previously said 70 councils had been provided with mass ‘lateral flow’ rapid testing kits in early November, but at a smaller scale than in Liverpool.
The councils were to be given a 600,000-test initial batch, followed by enough tests for 10% of their population per week.
Boris Johnson today admitted there could be a “problem” in “getting everybody mobilised”.
The Prime Minister said: “We’ve got tens of, perhaps hundreds of, millions of lateral flow tests coming into this country. We already have a huge stockpile.
“The difficulty is not the supply at the moment, the difficulty is actually working with local government, local communities to get them doing it.
“Liverpool already showed the way. We’re now looking at Barnsley, Doncaster and other places around the country where they want to pull together and do it.
“Just now, in this lab here in PHE (Public Health England) in Porton Down, I’ve been talking to some scientists – we are seeing real progress on a UK-made lateral flow test.
“We’re now quite there yet but in the months ahead we’ll be making them in this country as well.
“So the supply I don’t think is going to be the problem. The issue is going to be getting everybody mobilised, to understand the potential advantages of mass community testing.”