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For the Whole Town

A town in the UK is launching a study with the hope of eventually testing all its residents for COVID-19 each week, New Scientist reports.

It adds that the new test, rather than relying on uncomfortable nasal swabs, uses more readily accessible saliva samples and that the test is based on an approach called RT-LAMP that may be cheaper and faster than the standard PCR approach. 

"Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs," Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says in a statement. "This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.

According to the New Scientist, researchers from the University of Southampton are first using this approach to test doctors and members of their households each week, before rolling it out to include council workers and university students and staff. If all goes well, they plan to test the whole town of Southampton, it adds. 

Mass testing has been suggested as a way of containing the outbreak, but has also been largely thought to be impractical, New Scientist notes.