Three towns to begin mass Covid testing after ‘encouraging’ trial in Liverpool

A further three towns are to begin mass coronavirus testing after a "very encouraging" trial in Liverpool, it has been announced.

Around 1,000 soldiers will be deployed to help more than 100,000 residents get Covid-19 swabs, a government source has revealed.

One of the towns is in the Midlands and another in the South East with Boris Johnson set to identify them as early as tomorrow, The Times reports.

The move is to see if the mass-testing scheme aimed at identifying asymptomatic coronavirus infections in Liverpool can work in smaller areas.

A senior government source told the paper: "The point about mass testing is that if you can test a lot of people who have the virus, but don't have symptoms, and you can get them to isolate, you can reduce the spread of the disease."

Further sites have been selected in Wales and Scotland for a third wave of mass weekly testing.

Later this week, the government is expected to reduce the time required to self-isolate from 10 or 14 days to seven days.

Whitehall sources say that the Department of Health wants to use the army to lead the nationwide "moonshot" testing programme.

More than 2,000 army troops were sent to Liverpool earlier this week to begin mass testing which aims to swab the entire city's 500,000 people.

Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, who commands the 7,500-strong military Covid Support Force, said thousands more military personnel are on standby if required to expand the mass testing regime.

He added: "First and foremost this is a pilot. We don't know where it will go. It has the potential to roll out more widely. I am sure if the government demands it and the secretary of state Ben Wallace approves we could do the same again. This is definitely scalable."

Up to 12,000 Liverpudlians were screened for coronavirus on the first day of the city's mass testing programme, its public health director said yesterday.

He insisted the initial progress was "very encouraging" despite hour-long queues where people mixed with others who were potentially infected with the virus.

Liverpool's Matt Ashton said they were "still working on the numbers" but initial estimates suggest there were about 1,500 to 2,000 people tested at each of the six testing sites.

A further eight sites were opened on Saturday, as the Government ramped up capacity to reach its target of 50,000 tests a day once the city-wide programme becomes fully operational.

But some residents decried the first day of the mass testing regime as a "shambles" because those who were well were forced to mingle in hour-long queues with people potentially infected with Covid-19.

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