When mass testing could start in Sheffield in bid to lower Covid-19 infection rate

The Government wants to introduce mass testing across England to cut infection rates and reduce restrictions.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 10:46 am

The lateral flow test can give a result in under 30 minutes and is credited as having enabled Liverpool to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 after more than 1,000 positive cases were confirmed among residents with no symptoms.

However, with 41 per cent of people in England living under Tier 3 restrictions – about 23 million people – there are questions about how it will be logistically possible.

The Government has said a number of factors will be considered when deciding which areas to prioritise mass testing, including the state of the pandemic. This means those areas badly affected by the virus will likely take priority.

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The Government has said the state of the pandemic in an area will determine whether or not mass testing is made available there.

The number of new positive cases in Sheffield continues to fall, casting doubt on whether the city would be classed as a priority area.

The government also wants to see “a robust plan” from the local council showing how it could make use of community testing, as well as “the capabilities that each local authority can bring to maximise the effectiveness of the scheme.”

Two-thousand members of the military helped facilitate mass testing in Liverpool - but such support won't be available everywhere, so councils must help bridge that gap.

Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell previously said it is unfeasible to expect local authorities to manage mass testing on the same scale on their own.

The availability of suitable locations to set up test sites and ‘commercial considerations’ to ensure value for money will also be taken into account alongside the strength of partnerships between health authorities, Test & Trace, and local NHS Trusts.

Sheffield City Council has said it is waiting for the Department of Health and Social Care to provide evidence the tests can give accurate results before it recommends their use to facilitate care home visits after it emerged one in five could produce a false negative.

Mr Fell said: “SAGE have not yet published evidence on this question, and we are waiting to see this before we take the next step.”