Rapid Covid-19 tests to be rolled out in Norfolk
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Large scale rapid testing of asymptomatic people for Covid-19 is to be used to try to stem the spread of the virus in Norfolk - after a successful trial in part of the county.
For two days in the run-up to Christmas, Norfolk County Council ran a trial of lateral flow testing in King's Lynn.
The lateral flow tests - used widely in Liverpool in November - help detect asymptomatic cases and can give results within 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, said of the King's Lynn trial: "It's not on the Liverpool scale, it's much smaller than that, with 200 tests being done.
"We have worked with the borough council, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and have had support from the University of East Anglia, which has experience from its own testing."
The pilot was run at the Fairstead Community Centre in King’s Lynn, with help from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.
Dr Smith said the trial testing will pave the way for targeted community testing on a larger scale elsewhere in the county in the weeks ahead.
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People who test positive in lateral flow tests still need to book PCR tests - which take longer to come back but are more accurate - and self isolate in the meantime.
The council says larger scale rapid tests will be rolled out elsewhere in the county in the weeks ahead.
A spokeswoman said: "We ran a small local pilot which aimed to prepare us for rolling out wider targeted rapid testing in Norfolk over the next few weeks.
"The pilot has helped us to establish the operational experience and processes we need to enable large-scale community testing in the county.
"It was also crucial to our next steps planning in terms of the support needed alongside testing, including provision of food parcels and the need to ensure PCR tests are available on site for any positive cases.
"We will seek to prioritise where targeted rapid testing is offered, ensuring it is targeted to those who can most benefit.
"It is important to state that anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should still book a PCR test online or over the phone via NHS Test and Trace.
"Targeted rapid testing, also known as lateral flow testing, is only valid at the time of the test and still requires people to ensure they are social distancing, wearing face coverings where appropriate, and washing their hands – even if they test negative."
The government recently announced more areas would roll out rapid community testing in December or January, with Norfolk among those provided with kits by the government.
Public Health England scientists at Porton Down have also confirmed lateral flow tests "successfully detected samples" with the new variant of Covid-19, which is known to be in Norfolk.
Norfolk and Suffolk went into Tier 4 of coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to announce any changes to tier areas in a statement to the Commons on Wednesday.