UK’s first city-wide coronavirus testing kicks off

Liverpool on Friday began England’s first city-wide trial of coronavirus testing in an attempt to prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed during the country’s second wave of the pandemic.

All of the northwestern city’s 500,000 residents as well as people working there will be offered repeat tests, even if asymptomatic, under the pilot, which will initially run for two weeks.

Hundreds of soldiers took over a local holiday park, some of the 2,000 armed forces personnel called in to support the testing drive.

Jurgen Klopp, manager of the legendary Liverpool football team, urged people to get tested.

“Do it for yourself, your family, your colleagues and your city. Let’s do it together, let’s do it for Liverpool,” he said in a video message posted on the club’s Twitter account.

Liverpool last month became the first English city to enter the most severe tier of regional lockdown as it battled a spike in cases, followed by nearby Manchester.

A month-long nationwide lockdown then came into force on Thursday after cases began to spiral in all parts of England.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, whose brother died of COVID-19 last month, said the pilot could save lives and “get the city out of tier three restrictions”.

Britain is already grappling with the worst toll in Europe with over 48,000 dead after testing positive for the disease.

Matthew Ashton, Liverpool’s director of public health, told the BBC the pilot could last longer than two weeks, saying they “want to make sure it is long enough for us to be able to see the impact”.

“The point of this is to get the city tested,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday the kind of cheap new tests being used in Liverpool “can be a massive and possibly decisive use to us in this country in defeating the virus”.

The tests involve swabs and new “lateral flow” tests, akin to pregnancy tests, which can provide a result within 20 minutes.

New testing sites have been set up across the city, in schools, universities, offices and care homes.

The government has already spent £12 billion ($16 billion) on testing programmes across Britain.

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