The scheme will see the city’s population of almost half a million offered regular coronavirus testing from later this week.
The entire population of the COVID-19 hotspot city of Liverpool will be regularly offered a coronavirus test in a pilot scheme using the armed forces.
Two thousand military personnel are being deployed to support a pilot of mass coronavirus testing in Liverpool.
Tests will be offered to everyone across the city with all residents and workers able to be tested regularly from Friday, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Announcing the pilot scheme, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank the civic leaders of Liverpool for volunteering to join the UK’s first city-wide population testing pilot and the people of Liverpool for taking part.
“These tests will help identify the many thousands of people in the city who don’t have symptoms but can still infect others without knowing.
“Dependent on their success in Liverpool, we will aim to distribute millions of these new rapid tests between now and Christmas and empower local communities to use them to drive down transmission in their areas.
“It is early days, but this kind of mass testing has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against COVID-19.”
It follows the announcement that the British Army will be used in the rollout of “rapid turnaround tests” for coronavirus, which will form part of the initiative in Liverpool.
The city, which has been under Tier 3 restrictions for nearly three weeks and has one of the highest coronavirus rates in England at 366.4 cases per 100,000, volunteered for the scheme, which will start on Friday.
The scheme will use new, rapid turnaround tests, with the military working alongside NHS staff, and everyone living or working in the city offered repeat testing – even if asymptomatic.
Residents and workers will be tested using a combination of existing swab tests, as well as 500,000 new lateral flow tests, which can rapidly turn around results within an hour without the need to be processed in a lab.Advertisement
People will be able to book a test online, by walking into a test centre, or by invitation from the city council.
Tests will be carried out at new and existing test sites, using home kits, in hospitals, care homes, schools, universities and workplaces.
Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson, whose brother Bill died from COVID-19 last month, said: “We are pleased that our numerous conversations have resulted in Liverpool becoming a pilot for mass testing, which will help to quickly identify people who have the virus and reduce transmission substantially.
“We are seeing a slow reduction in figures in Liverpool which shows we are on the right path and residents and businesses are working together and following guidelines for the greater good.
“We hope this new initiative boosts our efforts, and we will continue to see the numbers of positive cases drop across the city.”
Explaining the role of the forces in the testing, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the armed forces have worked with colleagues across government to increase national testing capacity.
“We will be deploying 2,000 talented armed forces personnel to, once again, rise to the challenges posed by COVID-19 to ensure we go above and beyond for the Liverpool community – we will have your backs throughout the trial.
“The military are uniquely placed to help with the fight against COVID-19 and remain ready to support with the mass testing initiative in Liverpool along with the additional needs of the country at this time.”