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UK to Offer COVID-19 Testing for All Liverpool Residents, Workers in Pilot Program

NEW YORK – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday that Liverpool, England, would be participating in a whole city COVID-19 testing pilot program to offer every resident and worker repeat SARS-CoV-2 testing, regardless of symptoms. 

Tests will be provided through a partnership with the Liverpool City Council, the National Health Service Test and Trace, and the Ministry of Defence, with support from armed forces. The program will offer both existing swab, or PCR, tests, and new rapid turnaround lateral flow assays that don't require a laboratory and return results in an hour, the government said in a statement. Loop-mediated isothermal nucleic acid amplification, or LAMP, testing technology will also be deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for NHS staff. 

Everyone will be offered testing starting this week, even asymptomatic people, in an attempt to find more positive cases and break chains of transmission, the government said. The number of cases across Liverpool are among the highest in the UK at 410.4 per 100,000 people. COVID-19 cases in the UK are continuing to rise, and England implemented a new four-week lockdown earlier this week. After Dec. 2, restrictions will likely be eased, Johnson said.  

In a statement, the UK government said the pilot program "will help to inform a blueprint for how mass testing can be achieved and how fast and reliable COVID-19 testing can be delivered at scale." Tests can be booked online or by walk-up, and testing will be performed "in new and existing test sites, using home kits," in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, and workplaces. Patients who test positive will be required to self-isolate with their households.

The step is the latest taken by the UK government as it attempts to control the spread of the coronavirus. Last month, it partnered with four university laboratories based in London to increase testing capacity for SARS-CoV-2. 

In September, the UK government announced plans to ramp up testing for SARS-CoV-2 to half a million kits processed per day by the end of October.