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Hancock announces £500m mass testing scheme but Norwich misses out for now

PUBLISHED: 10:03 03 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:45 03 September 2020

The Earlham Institute in Norwich has taken part in a pilot project for coronavirus testing. Picture: Anthony Cullen

The Earlham Institute in Norwich has taken part in a pilot project for coronavirus testing. Picture: Anthony Cullen

Anthony Cullen

Regular mass testing for coronavirus will be trialled in three parts of the country as part of a £500 million package, the Health Secretary announced today.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireHealth Secretary Matt Hancock. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Trials of a 20-minute Covid-19 test and mass testing will be piloted in Salford, Southampton and Hampshire.

But despite the efforts of Norwich scientists, the city has missed out on being one of the first pilots.

Last week scientists at the Earlham Institute hailed a pilot mass testing scheme in Norwich as a success.

They said their project, involving 800 students, helped to spot ‘silent spreaders’ who have Covid-19, but do not have symptoms.

Professor Neil Hall, director of the Earlham Institute, said they had asked the government in April for support with the trial and did not know about the announcement on Thursday.

The Earlham Institute. Photo: Norwich Science FestivalThe Earlham Institute. Photo: Norwich Science Festival

Launched in July, the pilot project was done by the Earlham Institute, the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals, the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory - all based on Norwich Research Park.

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The scheme has not yet been given government funding to expand, but the Department of Heath said mass testing could be rolled out to other places, if the trials in Salford and Southampton are successful.

In Salford, the money will be used to for repeated community-wide testing.

Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a no-swab saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded through the £500m fund.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Testing is a vital line of defence in combating this pandemic.

“Over the past six months we have built almost from scratch one of the biggest testing systems in the world.

“We need to use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing, and build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus and enable more of the things that make life worth living.

“We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life.”


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