Rapid coronavirus tests are set to be rolled out across the bulk of London boroughs, as part of government plans to step up asymptomatic testing across the country.
Lateral flow tests, which have a turnaround time of as little as 15 minutes, will be sent to 21 out of London’s 32 boroughs this week.
The Covid kits, which operate on a similar model to pregnancy tests, form a key part of government plans to ramp up asymptomatic testing, as health officials attempt to cast a more accurate picture of how many people are infected with the virus on a daily basis.
The London boroughs that will receive the initial tranche of rapid tests include:
- Barking and Dagenham
- City of London
- Hammersmith and Fulham
- Kensington and Chelsea
- Kingston upon Thames
- Richmond upon Thames
- Tower Hamlets
- Waltham Forest
More than half a million rapid tests will be sent out in total across 66 public health directors across England, in virus hotspots such as Manchester, Birmingham and parts of Yorkshire.
Each region will receive 10,000 tests as part of a new pilot aimed at testing priority groups, which would then be followed up with weekly allocations equivalent to 10 per cent of local populations.
The rollout follows a trial run in Liverpool last week, which saw more than 23,000 people tested since Friday, with just 0.7 per cent testing positive.
Health secretary Matt Hancock today said: “Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.”
“Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I’m now expecting a whole load more,” he added. “If you’re a director of public health and you haven’t signed up for this yet, please do let us know and we’ll get you on board.”
The government today held discussions to extend the programme across Nottinghamshire, the BBC reported.
Baroness Dido Harding, who faced a grilling from the health committee this morning, said the NHS was now “moving to the next stage of tailored testing”.
Harding, who heads up the NHS Test and Trace programme, told MPs: “Capacity really isn’t the constraint at all — there are millions of these to be deployed. The question is, how to work through these cases but make them fit with the way we live our lives.”