Liverpool coronavirus mass testing pilot finds 700 cases with no symptoms

A pilot of mass coronavirus testing in Liverpool has found 700 positive cases which would have not been detected otherwise, an epidemiologist has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing on Monday, Public Health England director Dr Susan Hopkins said the lateral flow devices, which give results within an hour, had been used to test thousands of people in the city since the scheme began on November 6.

Over the last 10 days, with military support, we have tested almost 100,000 people in the Liverpool testing sites with the lateral flow devices and found more than 700 people who would otherwise have not been detected.

Director, Public Health England

"As you have heard, we are looking to replicate this across the country and working with directors of public health who can target the test for their own population - understanding the populations who are most at need of testing.

"We are also running evaluations in schools and universities and are planning to test university students prior to going home at Christmas."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace visited a test centre at Exhibition Centre Liverpool on Monday and said the army would assist with the programme for "as long as there is a need".

About 2,000 soldiers have been deployed to the city for the project, which was intended to run for an initial period of 10 to 14 days.

Ben Wallace met the the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson at the testing centre. Credit: Pa

Mr Wallace said: "The rollout's been good, the soldiers have been welcomed, the public have come from all over the city.

"We'd like more people to come but some of that is a challenge for ourselves, about do we move or shift and go to other parts of other communities where we're not seeing a high uptake, do we do more to publicise it?

"And I think that's a role for both public health and local authority to do alongside, but it's going in the right direction."

The pilot allows everyone who lives and works in Liverpool to get a regular coronavirus test even if they do not have symptoms.

People in Liverpool queueing for coronavirus tests. Credit: PA

On Monday, Liverpool City Council said 119,054 residents, just under a quarter of the city's population, had been tested.

Test centres have also been set up at schools and universities.

At the Exhibition Centre on Monday, soldiers could be seen providing training to care home staff to enable them to administer lateral flow tests to their residents and visitors.

In some areas we want to expand this as much as possible so today you'll see carers from care homes coming in, being taught how to administer these tests, being able to then take the test to the care homes and delivering on behalf of both the residents but also the relatives, so that people can try and at least have some visits or indeed get back to normal.

Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary

Trooper Dan House, 22, who spoke to Mr Wallace during his visit, said up to 500 tests a day were being carried out at the site where he was based.

He said: "It's been well received, especially at Aintree Baptist Church where I've been predominantly based.

"Members of the public have been bringing in tubs of Celebrations and Heroes for us.

"It's nice to know the work we're doing is coming across to the British public and they're happy we're here."