Norfolk to get rapid Covid test sites - to find people without symptoms

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health for Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Up to seven rapid mobile testing units are to be set up around Norfolk, as council bosses look to identify people who have coronavirus, but do not have symptoms.

Norfolk County Council carried out a trial using lateral flow tests, which can give results within about 30 minutes, at King's Lynn in the run-up to Christmas.

And the council is now close to rolling out more widespread, targeted testing, with King's Lynn one of up to seven areas where it will be used.

The lateral flow tests - used widely in Liverpool in November - help detect asymptomatic cases.

However, some scientists, including at the University of East Anglia, have questioned the usefulness of the tests.

The UEA study into the Liverpool tests, led by Prof Paul Hunter from the university's medical school, found it failed to detect 60pc of all positive cases and did not impact on infection rates.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. - Credit: UEA

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, acknowledged lateral flow testing was not as accurate as other types of tests scrutinised in laboratories, but said it could still be a useful tool when targeted in the right way.

She said: "The intention is to set up up to seven mobile testing units, where we can offer testing for people who do not have symptoms.

"It's important to remember that anyone who has symptoms of Covid should follow the existing arrangements and request a PCR test, as the best way to get tested.

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"The lateral flow tests are not as accurate and don't detect as many cases of Covid."

But she said there was a "clear benefit" in using such tests where people were doing essential work and would still be going into work as they had no symptoms.

Dr Smith said: "There is a clear benefit from doing the testing and finding additional cases that we would not have found otherwise because they were asymptomatic.

"We will focus and prioritise rolling out asymptomatic testing, starting with those areas where that use and purpose of additional case finding to make things safer to make them effective."

She said she hoped the asymptomatic testing planned for King's Lynn would start in the next couple of weeks.

Dr Smith some of the staff who will help to run it had already started their training.

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