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Community testing will be introduced in parts of England on Monday, as the government pushes to identify asymptomatic coronavirus cases and bring down the rate of transmission, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.
More than 1.6m rapid coronavirus tests will be sent to 67 local authorities in areas under tier 3 restrictions. The DHSC said the scheme is expected to include 100 local authorities in the new year, and aims to “help put tier 3 areas on a route out of the toughest restrictions”.
According to government figures, roughly one in three people who have coronavirus do not display any symptoms, meaning they are more likely to inadvertently spread the disease. The government hopes to identify these asymptomatic cases through community testing to break the chain of transmission.
The community testing schemes will work differently in different areas.
In Lancashire, for example, testing will begin in large manufacturing sites and businesses with workforces of more than 200 people, alongside more vulnerable groups, while Kirklees in Yorkshire will focus on testing whole boroughs of people in areas with consistently high rates of infection.
The government said it would support the community testing programmes for a minimum of six weeks, and that local authorities could bid for additional testing capacity and support “on an ongoing basis”.
The scheme is only operating in England, but the DHSC said devolved administrations would be “supported to roll out similar exercises” and would receive their population’s share of testing capacity, including rapid tests.
“Community testing will be very important in helping the areas where levels of the virus are highest to drive down infection rates and ultimately will help areas ease tougher restrictions,” the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock said.
“This is just the start, and we are working quickly to roll out community testing more widely as soon as more local teams are ready. I urge all those living in areas where community testing is offered to come forward and get tested.”
Experts, however, have expressed concerns about the accuracy of the rapid testing kits. The mass testing pilot scheme in Liverpool showed that they missed 30% of those with a high viral load and detected only five out of 10 positive cases that the standard coronavirus tests picked up.
The results led many experts to call for them to be axed from mass testing schemes because they gave false reassurance.
The government said extensive clinical evaluation had shown the rapid tests were accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community, and that they would work in tandem with standard coronavirus tests.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Community testing for Covid-19 to be rolled out in parts of England | World news