The latest update from the Health Secretary on the Covid-19 testing picture:
As a result of partnerships with NHS and university labs, new cutting-edge testing innovations and a recruitment drive boosting the UK’s coronavirus diagnostic industry, NHS Test and Trace has rapidly expanded testing capability ahead of winter. I’m delighted to let you know that we met our target of 500,000 testing capacity per day on Saturday 31 October with a capacity of 519,770. In addition, the Prime Minister has also announced everyone living or working in Liverpool will now be offered COVID-19 testing, whether they have symptoms or not, in the first pilot of whole city testing in England made possible by the dramatic increase in testing capacity and new technologies.
To meet the unprecedented scale of challenge this pandemic presents, a national effort of people and organisations – from national and local government, the NHS, Public Health England, the military, academia, businesses, charities and others – to create a massive scale testing and tracing programme.
Our commitment to increasing testing capacity has already seen the number of labs across the UK’s growing diagnostic network grow through a combination of public, private and academic partnerships. Nearly 3,000 new recruits have joined the lab network since April, while advances in innovation and technology continue to speed up processing and add to capacity.
Since the first UK test site opening at the end of March, more than 600 test sites are now in operation across the UK, with up to 40 new test sites opening every week, making the median distance people are now travelling to a test centre just 2.8 miles.
A critical part of our testing efforts is the use of new technologies and innovations, deployed in ways that will have the most impact in protecting people at risk, finding the virus and enabling life to get back to as normal as possible. As the Prime Minister has outlined, we have started a number of pilots across schools, universities and workplaces to assess the use of rapid lateral flow antigen tests, in addition to ongoing pilots using the LAMP saliva test and asymptomatic testing for NHS staff.
We have also rolled out test kits across 86 NHS Hospitals so far, which will provide over 34,000 tests to NHS staff and patients each day. NHS staff have received training to use the tests within hospitals, which can deliver results in just 90 minutes and further strengthen the coronavirus response this winter.
And now, as part of the first deployment of whole city testing, residents and workers in Liverpool will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as new lateral flow tests which can rapidly turn around results within an hour without the need to be processed in a lab, as well as LAMP technology due to be deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for NHS staff.
This will help support the local area to find even more people with coronavirus to control the spread of the virus and gain more data on the number of cases across the city, which are already among the highest per 100,000 in the UK. Testing will begin this week and is the start of a process to inform a blueprint for how mass testing can be achieved and how fast and reliable COVID-19 testing can be delivered at scale. Further rollout of mass testing will come soon.
We will continue to expand testing capacity to improve test turnaround times, push forward testing innovations to make sure anyone who needs a test can get one.