Following the successful mast testing (now known as SMART testing) pilot in Liverpool, all five other boroughs in the region (Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St.Helens, Wirral) have confirmed that they too will be offering regular testing for residents without symptoms of COVID-19 from next week.
The roll out of SMART testing across the entire city region is another positive step forward in the area’s efforts to tackle COVID-19. In addition to identifying people with the virus who could unknowingly be passing it on, regular testing will hopefully allow residents to return to the things they love – and have missed so dearly during the pandemic as a result of national and local restrictions.
From early next week testing centres will be up and running in each borough.
“SMART” testing refers to Systematic, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing, with the approach being based on the learning of the pilot in Liverpool and continue to be evaluated to inform how testing works nationally.
Covid-19 infection rates continue to fall across the city region’s 1.6 million people, now standing at less than 100 per 100,000 people. At their peak in October rates were around 700 per 100,000.
Early increased Covid-19 restrictions, including being the first city region to enter ‘Tier 3’ have driven the continued decrease in numbers, however we are not complacent and remain determined to continue to drive the Covid-19 infection rate down, with testing crucial to this.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said, “It is fantastic news that the trailblazing Liverpool testing pilot is being expanded to serve the wider region. With up to a third of individuals with coronavirus showing no symptoms, regular community testing will help identify those who are infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease, so that they can isolate and protect others.
“This pilot will continue to inform our plans for community testing across the country in the highest risk areas, which we are working to roll out as quickly as possible.
“I urge all those living in the Liverpool City Region to come forward and get tested.”
In a joint statement, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and the Leaders of the five Local Authorities – Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral – said, “Effective testing is absolutely vital to our efforts to containing the virus, protecting our NHS and saving lives.
“Cases of Covid-19 continue to fall across the city region because of the sacrifices we have all made and because people have come forward to get tested.
“But, while we enjoy some extra freedoms under Tier 2, we cannot afford to be complacent for one second.
“We all want to get back to a normal life as soon as possible, but until the vaccine has been fully rolled out there are three things we must all continue to do.
“So please: Get tested, regularly. Self-isolate if you test positive or have symptoms. And, even if you test negative, follow the rules – hands, face, space.”
Director of Testing and Mass Vaccination for Cheshire & Merseyside, Terry Whalley, said:
“This is a huge opportunity for the Liverpool City Region as we continue to lead the way on testing those without symptoms, which I believe have made and will make a real difference to the way we live with Covid-19 while we roll out an effective vaccine.
“The success of repeat, targeted testing in Liverpool over the last month has shown that we can drive down the R-number and identify positive cases in people who had no idea they were carrying and potentially spreading the virus.
“The extension of specific, meaningful testing could lead to some very real benefits for all of us as we seek to return to a more normal way of life going into 2021. Through all this additional carefully targeted testing we could see people who continue to test negative being more able to carry on with normal activities, such as attending a football match or visiting elderly relatives.
“We have a real chance here to further prove that additional testing of those without symptoms can protect lives and livelihoods and I am very proud that Liverpool City Region is at the forefront of this work.”
For more information on when and how testing will be available in your area, please visit your Local Authority website.