UK to pilot new mass testing approach

·2-min read

Britain will launch a COVID-19 mass testing pilot scheme in Liverpool, offering everyone in the city tests whether or not they have symptoms, in a bid to find a better way to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a "world-beating" test-and-trace system earlier this year but it has disappointed and the government's scientific advisory body says its impact on transmission has been marginal.

The United Kingdom has the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe and a second national lockdown is due to come into force in England on Thursday.

The government said on Monday the Liverpool pilot would start on Friday using default method PCR swabs as well as new lateral flow tests aimed at delivering faster results without the need for laboratory processing.

Everyone living or working in the northwest English city will be offered repeat tests at existing sites as well as numerous new sites including care homes, schools, universities and workplaces.

Johnson said dependent on the pilot's success, millions of the new rapid tests could be distributed elsewhere in the country before Christmas to help local authorities drive down transmission in their areas.

"It is early days but this kind of mass testing has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against COVID-19," the prime minister said in a statement.

Some 2000 military personnel will be deployed in the city from Thursday to help deliver the tests.

Lateral flow tests involve applying a swab from the nose and throat to a special test kit designed to provide a rapid result.

The pilot will also make use of "LAMP" or loop mediated isothermal amplification, which the government described as a new testing technology able to deliver significant volumes of tests.

The method will be used to test National Health Service staff at Liverpool University Hospitals.

Liverpool was the first city placed in the highest of three COVID alert levels in England's new tiered response system. Weekly cases stood at 410 per 100,000 people as of October 25.