LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND. One of the mass Covid-19 testing centres at the Liverpool Tennis Centre on 8 November 2020. Picture: Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council.

Phased transition of Covid sites gets under way

The phased transition of Liverpool’s Covid testing sites from the military to civilian staff is getting under way.

Around 2,000 troops have facilitated 200,000 Covid tests at almost 50 testing centres in the city over the last month, with around a third of the population getting tested.

The Covid infection rate in the city has reduced from 680 per 100,000 people to under 100 in the space of around six weeks.

It means Liverpool and the wider city region became the first area in the country to move down from Tier 3 to Tier 2 when lockdown ended, enabling many businesses to reopen for the first time in two months.

Members of 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, have been training around 140 civilian staff in the use of PPE, administering lateral flow tests and processing results to allow for a smooth transition to a community testing programme.

They will be operating a reduced number of centres across the city which will concentrate on what is known as SMART community testing (Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing) focused on enabling people to go about their everyday lives safely, opening up the economy and getting life going again in Liverpool.

The focus will be around encouraging people to get tested before they mix with others, such going for a night out at the cinema or a theatre, go Christmas shopping, attend a business event or football match and see their family over the festive season.

A total of five main static sites for people without symptoms to get tested are now operating 7 days per week, from 7am – 7pm:

  • Aintree Baptist Church, Longmoor Lane, L9 0EH
  • Exhibition Centre Liverpool , King’s Dock, L3 4FP (7am – 2pm on Sunday)
  • Lifestyles Austin Rawlinson, Conleach Road, Speke, L24 0TR
  • Liverpool Tennis Centre, Wavertree Sports Park, Wellington Road, L15 4LE
  • Liverpool FC Anfield Stadium, Anfield Road, L4 0TH (7am – 2pm on Sunday)

Croxteth Hall is also open as a testing site from 9am – 4pm each day, currently.

The ‘hubs’ will be further supported by a number of smaller ‘pop-up’ testing sites which will appear around the city in key community locations on a rotation basis.

City centre sites are also coming on stream on Saturday 5 December in order to support the retail and hospitality sector so visitors and customers can ‘Test and Go’ before going shopping or for a meal. They are:

  • The former FatFace unit at Liverpool ONE on Upper South John Street – open 9am – 6pm Monday – Saturday and 11am – 5pm on Sunday
  • Liverpool Town Hall open on Saturday from 9am – 6pm, initially as a one-day trial

An up-to-date list of currently open sites can be found at www.liverpool.gov.uk/smarttesting, along with more details about the testing programme.

Director of Public Health, Matthew Ashton, said: “We are hugely grateful to the Army for their support in setting up and staffing testing centres across the city over the last month, and they will remain with us for the transition period.

“Their unfailing professionalism has shone through every single day, and I have received many compliments about how polite and helpful they have been to people visiting the test centres.

“We simply could not have done this at such scale and speed without their support, and they should be really proud of the role they have played in helping Liverpool and the wider city region come out of the lockdown in a lower Tier than we entered it.

“We are asking people without symptoms to continue using the remaining centres to get tested and build it in to their routine before they do things such as going shopping, visiting the theatre, a football match, the hairdressers, the cinema, a night out and so on.

“The more people who get tested, the more chance we have of continuing the decline in positive cases we have seen in recent weeks, and getting life going again in the city up to Christmas and beyond.”

Brigadier Joe Fossey, Commander of the 8th Engineer Brigade, said: “It has been a real privilege to help and support Liverpool deliver the first ever UK city-wide testing pilot, and prove how community testing can help in the fight against COVID-19. The success in Liverpool has helped support testing roll out elsewhere.

“We have been inundated with support, well wishes and positivity from every corner of the city. All of my soldiers are extremely grateful for the warm reception and generosity shown by the people of Liverpool. Thank you. It has made our job so much easier and we remain indebted to the many volunteers, community leaders and businesses that helped us deliver things so quickly.

“I would like to congratulate the superb team of teams who orchestrated the logistics and testing delivery. To my Liverpool City Council, NHS, Emergency Services and Academic colleagues, I want you to know it has been a pleasure to work alongside you. You are a formidable team.”