- Targeted community testing initiative to launch to drive down transmission rates
- Testing to begin in Surrey to help protect people most at risk, using rapid turnaround tests supplied by NHS Test and Trace
The Targeted Community Testing initiative, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, will initially launch in Woking, Spelthorne and Epsom and Ewell and a number of community pharmacies (with further sites and pharmacies to follow).
Around one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms, so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.
With its targeted approach, Surrey’s community testing programme is aimed at adults who cannot work from home during national restrictions. Regular symptom-free testing will help reduce the prevalence of the virus in the highest risk areas.
The first three pilot sites, as well as three pilot community pharmacies, will receive the lateral flow tests, provided by NHS Test and Trace, as part of a programme to enable local public health leaders to start testing residents who are permitted to leave their home to go to work during national lockdown restrictions.
Rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests provide results within an hour, and will be used to proactively test symptom-free individuals. Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test.
Testing will be available for asymptomatic individuals who are not able to work from home during national restrictions from:
- 15th February in Staines
- 16th February in Ewell
- 18th February in Woking
- And, from the 15th February, in three pilot pharmacies (Cranleigh, Stoneleigh and Caterham) with more to follow.
For more information on how to get a test, visit https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/emergency-planning-and-community-safety/coronavirus/testing/symptom-free
All efforts to find people without symptoms work hand-in-hand with the existing free testing service for those with symptoms. Anyone with one or more of these symptoms – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste – should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
The pilot symptom-free testing centres are open Monday to Friday 8 am to 7pm and can be booked via the booking portal on the Surrey County Council website. Community pharmacies will be offering tests during their normal opening hours.
Ruth Hutchinson, Surrey’s Director of Public Health said:
“Symptom-free testing for people who are still going into their workplace during national restrictions is one of the most effective ways of ensuring our infection rate continues to drop in Surrey.
“Targeted Community Testing will help us to break the chain of transmission by identifying people who have no symptoms of Covid-19, and would otherwise be out and about in the community, potentially spreading the virus further.
“Thank you to everyone in Surrey for your tremendous efforts over the past year to keep this virus at bay. Let’s keep doing everything we can to get our rates down and keep Surrey safe.”
Health Minister Lord Bethell said:
“We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter COVID-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.
“Around one in three people have the virus without symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.
“I’m delighted that Surrey County Council and NHS Surrey Heartlands CCG are working with us to roll out community testing in Surrey, and I look forward to seeing the results.”
Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:
“NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19. Increased community testing is a vital additional tool at our disposal to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease.
“Targeted Community Testing in Surrey will be essential in driving down transmission rates. I urge all those living in areas where community testing is offered to come forward and get tested.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Tests can be booked via the online booking system
- On 9 November the Prime Minister announced that lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders to enable local teams to direct and deliver testing based on their local knowledge. And with over 2 million lateral flow test kits delivered to over 100 local authorities, locally led testing is already underway across the country.
- On 4 January the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown, with restrictions expected to last until the middle of February.
- As part of the expansion of community testing, local authorities will be supported to carry out community testing programmes until the end of March. This support will be rolled out during national lockdown restrictions, being kept closely under review.
- The government will continue to work with Devolved Administrations on their plans for community testing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- See latest testing statistics here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
- Lateral flow devices (LFDs) – or rapid tests – used by the UK government go through a rigorous evaluation by the country’s leading scientists.
- LFDs detect cases with high levels of virus, making them effective in finding individuals who are the most likely to transmit the disease, including those not showing symptoms.
- Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show lateral flow tests are specific and sensitive enough to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people. The Oxford University and Public Health evaluation is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oxford-university-and-phe-confirm-high-sensitivity-of-lateral-flow-tests