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COVID TESTING PILOT: Cut virus cases & spread


An evaluation of Liverpool's pioneering SMART community testing pilot by academics has found it led to a reduction of more than a fifth in Covid-19 cases.


Last November, the city became the first in the world to have a voluntary mass testing programme for people without coronavirus symptoms.


There were more than 50 sites across the city during the peak of the surge testing period, with army personnel supporting the city's response.

Now, a study by the University of Liverpool and the Department for Health and Social Care has concluded that community testing led to an 18% increase in case detection and a 21% reduction in cases compared with other areas up to mid-December, after which the Kent variant surge made it difficult to compare areas.

During the evaluation period (6 November 2020 to 30 April 2021), 283,338 (57%) Liverpool residents took a test using a lateral flow device. The devices worked as expected, identifying most cases with high viral load, which were likely to be the most infectious.

Researchers found that:

  • Testing saved around a day in the time it takes to identify someone as likely to pass on the virus, and by being able to test more people
  • There was strong public awareness of, and a largely positive attitude toward community testing motivated by shared identity, civic pride and a wish to protect others
  • Co-ordination of testing with timely data integrated across NHS and public health organisations was critical to success
  • However, people living in more deprived areas were less likely to take up testing and more likely to test positive. Fear of loss of income in self-isolation was a significant factor in this inequity in testing.

The Combined Intelligence for Population Health Action system used to coordinate testing is now expanding to other regions and could contribute to building up a 'national grid' of public health data systems needed to improve pandemic responses.

Testing centres for people without symptoms have continued to be a core part of Liverpool's COVID-19 response, along with the vaccine rollout.

As part of the NHS 'Grab-a-jab' campaign, Sefton Park will be hosting Liverpool's first mass vaccination event this weekend.

On Saturday (8am-8pm) & Sunday (8am-6pm), anyone aged 18+ can get their Covid-19 vaccine – and with thousands of vaccines available, no appointment is necessary.

Led by Central Liverpool Primary Care Network, and supported by Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, the pop-up centre will be located at Review Field, Sefton Park, next to Croxteth Gate and will offer both 1st and 2nd doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

The weekend event is expected to be busy, so everyone attending is being asked to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings, unless they are exempt – and not to attend – if they have any Covid-19 symptoms.


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