A Government-backed testing pilot specifically for people without symptoms of Covid-19 will begin in Wolverhampton today.
Faith groups in the city are coming together to support the community-led pilot, using fast-turnaround lateral flow tests kits, which will take place at Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on Sedgley Street.
Unlike the regular Covid-19 test programme, the pilot will only provide tests to people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus. It aims to identify undiagnosed cases of Covid-19 in order to help protect those most at risk from the virus and will also provide vital information to help inform the rollout of the mass testing technology in the future. People without symptoms of Covid-19 will be able to get tested for free at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on Sedgley Street from tomorrow until Monday 30 November. Testing is available between 7am and 7pm every day and everyone is welcome.
People who do have symptoms of Covid-19 – a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste – should not attend the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara on Sedgley Street but instead book a test through the normal channels – either by visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or calling 119. People who develop symptoms must stay home and self-isolate.
The pilot is being delivered in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council and NHS Test and Trace. John Denley, Wolverhampton's Director of Public Health, said: "Just because you haven’t got any symptoms doesn't mean you don't have Covid-19 – and one of our biggest concerns is people unwittingly spreading the virus around because they simply don't realise they're infected.
"We are therefore delighted to be working with NHS Test and Trace and faith groups in the city including Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and local leaders from the Catholic Church, Church of England, city mosques and other faith groups such as Oasis of Love International Church on this important pilot. It will make use of lateral flow antigen tests and enable us to identify people who, because they’re asymptomatic, risk accidently spreading Covid-19 to others. This will help break the chain of transmission and reduce the spread of the virus.”
Latest data shows there were 347.83 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the seven days to 14 November. That means some 915 people in the city tested positive for the virus in that seven day period – though the true number of new cases will likely be considerably higher.
Utilising new technologies, such as lateral flow tests, is key to the Government’s plans to rollout mass testing – testing large numbers of people in a short period of time, with test results made available quickly, even on the spot. Mass testing will give people in environments such as hospitals, schools, universities and workplaces rapid reassurance that they are not infected, or allow them to isolate more quickly if they are.
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. Innovations such as lateral flow tests hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see mass, rapid testing available to people across the country. I’m delighted that the City of Wolverhampton Council and the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara are working with us to pilot the latest technology in Wolverhampton, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, both in helping target the virus locally, and helping find ways to roll this technology out further soon.”
Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, added: "NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against Covid-19 with over 32 million tests processed so far. The work of the City of Wolverhampton Council and Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara will be essential in helping us explore the benefits of new technology. This pilot is one of many which will lay the foundations for the next phase of NHS Test and Trace – mass testing – which will allow us to test even more people, even more quickly.”
Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. They will also be advised to book at test if they develop symptoms.
The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at www.gov.uk/coronavirus and on the council’s own coronavirus pages at www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/coronavirus. Details of the national lockdown measures in effect until 2 December, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/covidalert.