Wirral to pilot ‘Rapid Turnaround’ COVID-19 testing programme

Wirral will be among the first areas to benefit from the announced expansion of COVID-19 testing as has been introduced in Liverpool.

The lateral flow antigen tests were introduced for mass testing in Liverpool on November 6th and has seen 90,000 people tested in the first week, mayor Joe Anderson said.

3D render of a medical background with Corona virus cells

Wirral will be setting up a pilot programme of community testing for COVID-19, using these quick tests for people who are not currently showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Julie Webster – Director of Public Health for Wirral, said, “At this stage it must be made clear this is not mass testing as we have seen in Liverpool.

“It is a targeted testing programme which will help us control the virus and limit its spread amongst the most vulnerable people in the borough.

“We will be looking to use this new testing technology among high-risk groups and settings across the borough.”

Wirral will be trying multiple pilots within across a variety of settings. The programme:

  • Tests up to 10% of the local population weekly using Lateral Flow Tests (LFT.)
  • Focuses on targeted populations at high risk (identified locally.)
  • Is locally-led, directed, and coordinated

Plans are being developed urgently, but initial priority cohorts are likely to include:·

  • Front-line social care staff, including care homes.
  • Other high-risk residential settings: Wirral Hospice, homeless hostels, etc.
  • Emergency service staff.
  • Children and Young people services: Children’s social workers, school transport staff, etc.
  • Wirral Met College
  • Key workers to maintain essential services: e.g. Refuse collection service, Highways, transport workers, etc.
  • Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic population
  • Local large employers

There will be a fixed asymptomatic testing site (potentially at Bidston) and a mobile asymptomatic testing service. Other tests will be provided to settings, with staff within each setting trained to undertake testing of their identified cohort.

The Leader of Wirral Council, Councillor Janette Williamson, said, “I’m really pleased that Wirral is set to see a marked increase in testing which will allow key groups to be checked for COVID-19 and help us restrict the transmission of the virus.

“The tests will be those used in the mass testing pilot carried out in Liverpool known as lateral flow antigen tests. These are a new kind of testing technology that do not require a laboratory to process the test, although swabbing and processing of these tests must be conducted by trained personnel, and preparations for this are being put in place across the borough.

“These new tests are specifically for people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste). If you do have symptoms details of how get tested are available from wirral.gov.uk

“At this stage it must be made clear this is not mass testing as we have seen in Liverpool but is a large scale targeted testing programme which will help us control the virus and limit its spread amongst the most vulnerable in the borough.”

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