Mass coronavirus testing coming to Doncaster but not Sheffield – this could be why

Coronavirus tests which provide a result in just 15 minutes will soon be available to everyone in Doncaster but not Sheffield - here's why.

Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 9:18 am

‘Lateral flow tests’ are currently being used in Liverpool to allow anyone living or working in the city to be tested regularly for Covid-19, even if they have no symptoms.

The tests will allow increased testing of priority and high-risk groups on a weekly basis and can pick up more cases in asymptomatic people, stopping the spread of the virus.

Who gets the tests and why?

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British Army soldiers, 19th Regiment Royal Artillery 5 Battery, staff testing booths inside Anfield Stadium in Liverpool (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Sixty-six areas in England will receive the tests, which are being sent out this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Monday.

The government said areas prioritised for the testing – including Doncaster – were based on expressions of interest from their directors of Public Health to the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as the local prevalence of coronavirus.

There were 472 cases per 100,000 people in Doncaster in the seven days to 6 November. In Sheffield, that number was 362 for the same period.

The infection rate is one of several factors considered when measuring the prevalence of coronavirus in an area. Others include the number of people who take a test that test positive and the rate of infection increase or decline.

Why is mass testing not happening in Sheffield?

Greg Fell, director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council, said mass testing has scientific and logistical drawbacks.

He said: “Testing works if it's linked to the right interventions and we will learn from Liverpool if there is scientific validity.

"People would need to be tested and re-tested as doing it once is pointless so it will probably need to be done weekly or possibly fortnightly for a population of 600,000 in Liverpool.”

Mr Fell said the local authority would be unable to take on the logistical challenge of facilitating mass testing. In Liverpool, 2,000 soldiers are currently assisting but “won’t be there forever”.

He did say, however, that he supports testing in care homes and possibly for schools or the public sector to keep services running.