BLOG: Get tested today and play your part in stopping the spread of coronavirus

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Dr Susan Hopkins, NHS Test and Trace Medical Director, explains the innovations behind Liverpool’s mass-testing pilot.

The people of Liverpool have already done so much to help reduce rates of coronavirus and we are so grateful for your efforts.

We now know that at least half of the people with this infection are not presenting for tests and many of that group do not have typical or any symptoms. This means that someone could be highly infectious but not realise it, and therefore unable to self-isolate to help stop the chain of transmission and protect others.

Thanks to new technology, we are able to offer everyone in the city a fast and reliable test to detect whether they have Covid-19, even if they don’t have any symptoms. This means more tests can be carried out and faster, giving the virus less time to spread undetected.

These tests, called Lateral Flow Devices, have undergone rigorous assessments and they are some of the best emerging technology in the world that we have at our disposal in the fight against Covid-19. This week, Public Health England and Oxford University have confirmed the sensitivity of these tests, showing that the tests being used  in Liverpool are 99.6 per cent accurate, including testing on people who do not have symptoms.

We’re delighted to now be able to start using them more widely across the population – and it’s in Liverpool that you are leading the way and using these tests for the first time to help us get the virus under control. This will also help us to understand how the tests could be rolled out more widely.

Part of the beauty of these new tests is that they detect people when they are at their most infectious even if they don’t have symptoms, meaning they will have a big impact in helping us stop outbreaks before they occur.

Up until yesterday, 12 November, over 50,000 Liverpool residents have been tested in the city using the new tests, with 10,000 people who work or study here also taking the test. Out of this group 336 people have been identified that have Covid-19 but have had no symptoms. This means they can now self-isolate and keep many more people safe and slow the spread even more.

Everyone in Liverpool without coronavirus symptoms is eligible for a free test, today, of any age. By taking one you will be helping us to protect yourself and others, slowing the spread of coronavirus. The more cases we identify, the more people we can protect by lowering levels of infection in the city.

The tests are quick and simple to carry out, with people at the sites to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.  The Army is supporting the council in rolling out this large-scale testing across the city which is a first in this country.

You’ll use a swab to collect a nose and throat sample and the team at the test centre will offer any further advice, if necessary. Results should be available on the same day through a text message, email or phone call.

And if you’ve already had your free test, make sure to tell your friends, family and neighbours to do the same as soon as possible.

Just think about the difference it would make if every Liverpudlian got tested – we would find so many cases of the virus that have been hidden and help stop the spread which is causing such devastating effects to our loved ones and putting pressure on NHS services.

I want everyone to be clear that the tests we are using here are accurate, especially in finding people who are infectious at that moment in time and so are more likely to pass it on to others.

By getting tested you’ll also be helping to improve our understanding of the spread of the virus and how effective these tests are in slowing down that spread.

The people of Liverpool have worked immensely hard to bring infection rates down and this will be another vital tool to help us tackle Covid-19.

We’re confident that these tests will make a difference in how we protect the people of Liverpool from this disease, so please do make sure that you get a test as soon as you can.

Remember that regardless of what your test result says, everyone must make sure to keep abiding by the national restrictions that are currently in place: maintaining social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing hands regularly remain vital.

The tests we are rolling out in Liverpool are helping us learn more about the spread of coronavirus between people without symptoms. If you do have any symptoms, you should book your test through the NHS in the normal way.