Faster COVID-19 tests to be rolled out across England


  • The next step in the partnership between the NHS Test and Trace and local public health directors will increase testing of priority and high-risk groups in local communities on a weekly basis
  • Increase in asymptomatic testing will help detect more cases, stop the spread of the virus and support critical communities and industries

More than half a million fast-rotating lateral flow tests will be sent by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders this week, signaling the next phase of the government’s plan to expand asymptomatic testing for COVID- 19, the Prime Minister announced today.

Testing kits will be handed out to more than 50 public health directors across England this week, to enable local teams to lead and deliver community testing based on their local knowledge. Each will receive a batch of 10,000 antigen lateral flow devices as part of a new pilot project to enable them to begin testing priority groups.

Public health directors will determine how to prioritize the assignment of these new tests, based on the specific needs of their communities, and determine how local populations are tested. They will be supported by NHS Test and Trace to expand testing programs in their region through access to training and clinical and operational advice.

This initial batch of 600,000 batches will then be followed by a weekly allocation of lateral flow antigen tests. The Secretary of State for Health and Welfare has now written to all senior local government leaders confirming that all public health directors will be offered this weekly allowance, equivalent to 10% of their population. . This will build on existing partnerships between NHS Test and Trace and local leaders.

Public health directors have been prioritized for the first phase of rapid community screening based on the local prevalence of COVID-19 and expressions of interest to the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC). Any public health director who wants to start deploying local testing using lateral flow testing can do so by contacting DHSC.

Proactively testing asymptomatic individuals will help identify those who unknowingly have the virus and allow those who test positive and their contacts to self-isolate, which may help reduce the level of R locally. and save lives. This is crucial for breaking the chains of transmission of the virus and for supporting critical industries, key workers and institutions. With lower transmission rates, those most exposed to the virus will be more protected and residents will feel more confident to resume their daily lives.

Health and Social Affairs Secretary Matt Hancock said:

Last week we rolled out mass testing in Liverpool using rapid new technology so that we can detect this virus faster than ever before, even in people who are not showing symptoms. Mass testing is an essential tool to help us control this virus and return to a more normal life.

I am delighted to announce that 10,000 of these tests will now be sent by NHS Test and Trace to more than 50 public health directors as part of our asymptomatic testing strategy. I want to thank all of the public health directors for their support and efforts over the past few months to help us fight this virus, get it under control and bring the country back to what we love to do.

This deployment will further develop the evidence base on how testing with rapid and reliable COVID-19 tests can be delivered at scale. Local leaders will also benefit from a more accurate picture of the number of cases in their region, spotting those who may not be showing symptoms, supporting local decision-making to manage the spread of the virus and supporting their communities.

This innovative new testing technology – which is already being rolled out as part of Liverpool city-wide testing that began on Friday – can deliver results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab.

Liverpool has set up 16 testing sites for asymptomatic testing, a number of mobile testing units and is providing a significant number of home testing kits throughout the city.

The Acting Executive President of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said:

I am delighted that, as part of our testing expansion, we are able to partner with local authorities to deliver these new rapid rotation tests to our local communities. Building on a national capacity of 500,000 tests per day, we are now taking the next step of testing tailored to the individual needs of local areas, with control in the hands of local public health directors.

There has been a tremendous amount of work to develop these new testing capabilities and I want to thank my colleagues at NHS Test and Trace, Public Health England and the wider scientific community for making sure that we are the one of the first countries in the world to be able to deploy these new tests for the benefit of our public.

Anyone who tests positive must immediately isolate themselves with their household and their contacts will be traced. Eligible people who test positive – and contacts who need to self-isolate – will be eligible for the £ 500 test and traceability support payment in the same way as a regular swab test ordered through NHS Test and Trace.

Those who test negative should continue to follow all national guidelines.

Today’s announcement follows the Prime Minister’s pledge on October 16 that lateral flow antigen testing would soon be made available to public health directors in England to lead and provide an expansion of asymptomatic testing in accordance with local priorities.

The government has also pledged to provide devolved authorities with an allocation of lateral flow tests as they become available, as part of a UK-wide collaboration to stop the spread of virus. The eligibility and deployment of tests in decentralized administrations will be determined by the respective administrations.

Background information

NHS Test and Trace is already working closely with local authority leaders to tailor testing to local needs. This includes accepting mobile test unit sites and local (walk-in) testing sites, increasing testing to support outbreak management, and managing regular testing in nursing homes. This deeper partnership with local authorities builds on this.NHS Test and Trace provides testing, clinical and operational expertise, test site design and protocols, and creates a network of best practices to share learning. in local areas and with the national team.

Lateral flow antigen testing is a new type of technology that could be used to test a greater proportion of asymptomatic people, allowing us to better identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading the disease. viruses and break the chain of transmission.

Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. Swabbing and processing for these tests should currently be performed at a dedicated test site by trained personnel. The devices are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate, and we are looking at how this test could be self-administered.

The devices will be issued to the directors of public health of the following local authorities:

  • Barking et Dagenham
  • Bexley
  • Birmingham
  • Blackburn et Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Bolt
  • Brent
  • Bristol
  • Bury
  • Calderdale
  • Camden
  • City of London
  • County Durham
  • Coventry
  • Darlington
  • Doncaster
  • Dudley
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Enfield
  • Essex
  • Gateshead
  • Greenwich
  • Hackney
  • Halton
  • Hammersmith et Fulham
  • Hartlepool
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kingston upon Hull
  • Islington
  • Kensington et Chelsea
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Knowsley
  • Lambeth
  • Lewisham
  • Luton
  • Manchester
  • Middlesborough
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Newham
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland
  • Nottingham City
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oldham
  • Redbridge
  • Redcar et Cleveland
  • Richmond upon Thames
  • Rochdale
  • Salford
  • Sefton
  • South Tyneside
  • Southwark
  • Saint Helena
  • Staffordshire
  • Stockport
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Sunderland
  • Tameside
  • Tower hamlets
  • Trafford
  • Wakefield
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Warrington
  • Wigan
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton


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