A pilot scheme that will signal the start of a targeted, mass testing of asymptomatic people in Coventry is to begin from next week.
Public health officials in the city are expecting to receive an initial batch of 10,000 lateral flow testing devices this week to start the trial, that could eventually see around 30,000 tests carried out every week.
The lateral flow devices will allow speedy, self-administered tests to be conducted on asymptomatic people that can give results in less than 30 minutes, all overseen by a trained non-clinician.
The pilot scheme will initially be targeted at workplaces in Coventry, before rolling out to the wider community.
The first workplace to take part in the scheme will see around 450 Coventry City Council staff at the Whitley Depot be tested.
Coventry’s director of public health, Liz Gaulton, explained that the smaller pilots would pave the way to ramp-up the testing.
If successful, the pilot will then be widened to officers at West Midlands Police based in the city before being made available to workers across the city.
After this, asymptomatic mass testing will be expanded widespread to the community, but this is not expected to be available until at least early 2021.
Commenting on the reliability of lateral flow tests, Liz Gaulton insisted that “evaluation shows that LTF is effective and reliable if it is delivered correctly.”
Councillor George Duggins added: “Testing is an important weapon in the ongoing battle against Coronavirus and targeted testing will sit alongside the existing testing regime for people with COVID-19 symptoms.
It is expected that some public sector workers will be temporarily redeployed, working alongside private sector partners, to deliver the pilot as the scheme ramps up over the coming months.
Though, Cllr Duggins went on to say that “these tests are not the answer to the COVID-19 pandemic – we need a fit-for-purpose track and trace scheme”.
A similar – but separate – scheme is to get underway at the University of Warwick, with students being tested using lateral flow devices before returning home for the upcoming Christmas vacation.
It is thought the mass testing of students before travelling home will help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to their parents and family.