Health Matters - By Matt Ashton

BLOG: Why your city needs you to get tested

Director of Public Health Matthew Ashton explains why mass testing is so important for Liverpool….

Since March, we have lost more than 600 people to Covid in Liverpool.

Hundreds of families have prematurely said goodbye to close relatives and friends. Many didn’t even get the chance to say a final farewell in person because they were not allowed on to their hospital ward.

Despite a reduction over the last couple of weeks, we still have one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country.

Liverpool's Frontline
Medics inside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital ICU

Our hospitals are having to transfer patients to other hospitals or postpone other surgery to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

And we are heading into a month-long national lockdown with our freedoms and ability to go about our lives once again diminished, with all of the knock on effects for jobs and livelihoods.

As a father of young children, I know how difficult the restrictions have been and the impact it has had on us all. I am as desperate as you are to see an end to the pandemic.

For a while now, we have been in discussions with the government about a mass testing programme to give us a full picture of coronavirus spread in Liverpool.

One of the challenges with Covid is that not everybody who has it displays symptoms, even though they are spreading it to others. So they don’t know they are already contagious.

There are national estimates that say out of everyone who has the virus, between 75% and 80% could be asymptomatic (ie: have no symptoms).

This exciting mass testing programme simply means asking everyone to volunteer to be tested, and for those who test positive to self-isolate straight away and prevent others from getting it.

Let’s set an example not just to the rest of the country, but the rest of the world.

In addition, people who test negative may be afforded more flexibility to carry on with their day to day life. We are exploring with government what this could look like.

Up until now there has not been the testing resource to be able to do it.

We haven’t had this imposed on us: it is something that we have invited because we believe it could be a game changer in reducing the spread of the virus in Liverpool.

The military have helped us with logistics throughout Covid

We have asked the army to help with the logistics because we don’t have the staff to build the testing centres and help run them.

The test is free and is aimed at everyone who lives or works in Liverpool. If you live just over the border in Knowsley or Sefton, we won’t turn you away if you want to come over and get tested too.

If you’re feeling fine, you may be wondering what is in it for you. The simple answer is: because it could save the lives of people you know – and help get us back to a new normal more quickly.

If we get enough people to take part, it could mean we don’t go back into tier 3 when lockdown ends in December. That would mean a Christmas where we could do more social mixing and more of the things that we all enjoy.

Staff from licensing inspecting a venue to make sure it is Covid-safe

Liverpool has always led the way in public health – from appointing my predecessor Dr Duncan as the first Medical Officer of Health in 1847 through to mass screening for Tuberculosis in 1959 under Dr Andrew Semple, and being the first city to ban smoking in workplaces.

Mass testing gives us an opportunity to be at the forefront again, helping reduce the spread of this deadly virus.

Let’s set an example not just to the rest of the country, but the rest of the world.

Liverpool Waterfront