Fast Covid tests planned for Lancashire's frontline workers

Rapid result Covid tests are set to be introduced in Lancashire to try to detect people working in key frontline services who are carrying the virus - but not displaying symptoms.

A pilot scheme will see the so-called “lateral flow tests” introduced at first at a small number of sites to which eligible workers will be invited. They will receive their results within an hour, because the samples do not need to be sent to a lab for analysis.

Initially, the focus will be on council-run day services, before being rolled out to other sectors - including schools and emergency services. Staff testing programmes already exist within hospitals and care homes.

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The new tests are the same as those that have been used in a mass screening programme in Liverpool.

Details have been released about an expansion of Covid testing in Lancashire

While there are currently no plans to replicate that approach in Lancashire, it is possible that certain areas will be targeted for asymptomatic testing where there is an indication of particularly high levels of infection.

Residents in Preston, Pendle, Burnley and Hyndburn were previously entitled to tests even if they did not have symptoms as part of a programme rolled out for much of August and September to combat increasing Covid case numbers.

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Research by Oxford University and Public Health England found that lateral flow tests detect 76.8 percent of Covid-positive cases when administered by a health professional, with a specificity of 99.68 percent - meaning they have a false positive rate of 0.32 percent.

Angie Ridgwell, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum said: "We aim to increase the number of these new tests in the coming weeks as the pilot develops. We’re targeting this pilot at certain groups, such as specific key workers in health and social care, and our emergency services.

"It's really important that we maintain our essential services throughout the winter period; a time when they are under real pressure. By using these quick tests, we can keep this valuable workforce safe and be confident they can do their jobs without unwittingly passing the virus on to their customers or colleagues."

The programme is being delivered by Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council.

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Anybody who tests positive for the virus will be told to self-isolate for 14 days and will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace for details of their their contacts.

Close contacts of those testing positive will also have to stay at home for 14 days.