New COVID-19 testing system to start next week

A pilot scheme that will signal the start of targeted, mass testing across Coventry is to start next week.

Coventry City Council should receive an initial 10,000 lateral flow testing kits this week to start a trial, that could eventually see around 30,000 tests carried out every week.

The lateral flow tests (LTF) – speedy, self-administered tests that can give results in less than 30 minutes – will be used on people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone with symptoms, should book a test in the normal way by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus  or calling 119.

The tests in Coventry will be targeted in workplaces across the city, before rolling out to the wider community.

Overseen by trained non-clinicians, a small pilot centred around 450 Coventry City Council staff at Whitley Depot will start next week. The initial pilot will be held to ensure the tests can be delivered safely and effectively before being rolled out further.

If successful, the pilot will then be widened to officers at West Midlands Police based in the city before being made available to workers across the city. Widespread community testing is not expected to be available until early 2021.

Liz Gaulton, Director of Public Health at Coventry City Council, said the smaller pilots would pave the way to ramp-up the testing.

She said: “This is new for the city and evaluation shows that LTF is effective and reliable if it is delivered correctly. The pilots will give us the confidence that that systems do work and then allow us to go to the next step of making it more widely available.

“At this stage we intend to make the testing available for workforces, to give them the confidence and ability to continue to work but we will be guided by the evidence.

“If there appears to be an unexplained issue for outbreaks in parts of the city then of course we will adapt the offer to investigate and try to find the cause.”

Councillor George Duggins, Leader of Coventry City Council, added: “Testing is an important weapon in the ongoing battle against Coronavirus and targeted testing will sit alongside the existing testing regime for people with COVID-19 symptoms.

“There is no additional funding in the delivery of this scheme meaning we are looking to temporarily redeploy some staff and work with partners to ensure we have sufficient people to deliver this as the scheme ramps up over the coming weeks and months.

“These tests are not the answer to the COVID-19 pandemic – we need a fit-for-purpose track and trace scheme – but they can help people continue to live their lives with confidence ahead of the promised vaccination roll-out at some point during 2021.”

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