Covid mass testing Sunderland: what are lateral flow tests, when will they be introduced and who will get them?
All of the North East is expected to be part of the Covid-19 mass testing programme, with ‘a whole load more’ councils expected to sign up
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has written to every director of public health in England, offering to make new ‘lateral flow’ coronavirus tests available.
The tests – which can give a result in under an hour – have been used in Liverpool’s mass testing pilot, where they have been available to people who live and work in the area and do not have symptoms.
Speaking on Sky News on Tuesday (10 November), Mr Hancock said 66 local authorities had already expressed an interest in the tests and he was expecting “a whole load more” to sign up.
So will Sunderland see a similar mass testing scheme, and when might it be operational?
Here is everything you need to know.
When will mass testing be introduced in Sunderland?
It's been reported that all of the North East is expected to be part of the Covid-19 mass testing programme.
Every council area has signed up, including Sunderland, South Tyneside, County Durham, Hartlepool, and Northumberland.
On 9 November, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that over half a million rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders “this week”.
Test kits will be issued to directors of public health to enable local teams to direct and deliver community testing based on local knowledge; each will receive a batch of 10,000 lateral flow devices.
Leaders in Liverpool say the programme there has been given a good reaction, with thousands of people tested on the first day of the scheme; the programme aims to test up to 50,000 people a day once fully operational.
Who will get the tests?
Public health directors will determine how to prioritise the allocation of these new tests based on the specific needs of their communities, and will determine how people in the local area are tested.
The initial batch of tests will be followed up with a weekly allocation, equivalent to 10 per cent of an area’s population.
How does the test work?
Lateral flow tests can give a result in around 20 minutes, and do not require samples to be sent to a lab for analysis, though must be conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained personnel.
The tests – which look similar to a pregnancy test – are taken in much the same way as the more common polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, with a swab taken from the nose or back of the throat.
They are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate; Public Health England are looking at how the test could be self-administered in the future.
How do I book a test and where is it done?
While the details of Sunderland’s mass testing programme have not yet been confirmed, in Liverpool people are able to book a test online, walk-up, or attend by invitation from the local authority.
Testing there is being carried out in new and existing test sites.
What happens if I test positive?
Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate along with their household immediately and their contacts will be traced. Those who test negative will need to continue to follow all national guidance.
What will mass testing mean for the pandemic?
The accuracy and speed of the tests means they can be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people
That enables authorities to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading virus, thus breaking the chain of transmission.
Announcing the mass rollout of testing earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the tests can help in a variety of situations, “from helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth, to testing whole towns and even whole cities.”
Where else in the UK is mass testing being rolled out?
Mr Hancock also said that mass testing will eventually be expanded across the UK, and not just in England.
“It will be rolled out fairly across the whole of the UK with the same prioritisation no matter where you live in this country," he has said.
The following local authorities will take part in mass testing:
- Barking and Dagenham
- Blackburn and Darwen
- City of London
- County Durham
- East Riding of Yorkshire
- Hammersmith and Fulham
- Kingston upon Hull
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Kingston upon Thames
- Newcastle upon Tyne
- North Tyneside
- Nottingham City
- Redcar and Cleveland
- Richmond upon Thames
- South Tyneside
- St Helen's
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest