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Wednesday 16 December 2020

Covid-19: Rapid testing pilots take place across Cheshire East this week

A pilot scheme of rapid testing for Covid-19 is taking place across Cheshire East this week.

The tests use a new methodology known as Lateral Flow Testing. These tests have been designed to deliver targeted and focused, rapid testing for people without typical symptoms of Covid-19.

The test just takes 30 minutes to produce a result, this is sent via email and SMS confirmation within 45-60 minutes.

Cheshire East Council volunteered to take part in the pilot programme and through this received 10,000 test kits to trial across the borough.

Although the 10,000 kits are insufficient stock to be able to open a large-scale site for the general public, the council have specially chosen vulnerable groups and willing volunteers to take part in the trial. 

Trials take place this week in the following six different pilot groups;

  • Cheshire Fire – 300 Cheshire Fire employees are being tested to determine the right logistics and test frequency to protect front line staff. This could help to reduce the number of staff who may have to self-isolate if a fellow staff member tests positive and is a potential way to offer regular screening to key workers to prevent asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) spread of the infection;
  • Congleton High School – A “Swab Squad” of trained testers are carrying out testing with a selected bubble, within a year 12 group. This pilot will be useful for the school through a reduction in the number of pupils having to self-isolate when a fellow pupil in their bubble tests positive;
  • Springfield High School – The council is looking to determine whether access to rapid results is able to shorten the time extremely vulnerable children are out of their routine, and thereby minimise the impact to their education;
  • East Cheshire Hospice - Supporting the hospice with the ability to test their administration staff, who are not covered by the national programme;
  • Supported Living sites - Regular screening of staff and service users will take place before Christmas and;
  • Cheshire East Council - An internal testing programme with the council’s Early Help & Prevention team will take place to look at how testing can be integrated as an additional safe measure for staff.

Dr Matt Tyrer, Director of Public Health for Cheshire East Council said: “These pilots are invaluable to our learning about Covid-19, the testing process and how we roll out bigger scale tests to best serve our residents in Cheshire East.

“The testing kits are good for helping to find people who aren’t showing Covid-19 symptoms provided that they are administered properly. That is why we are currently carrying out focussed training and pilot testing of the kits in different settings. This will enable us to deliver an effective screening programme to identify people who are asymptomatic.

“The test is quick to take and provides rapid results in just 30 minutes. This means that when a negative result is received that person can go about their normal day and not have to isolate whilst waiting for results.

“During busy testing periods it can take up to 72 hours to receive the results of traditional tests who have to be sent to labs.

“A positive lateral flow test does however require a second test in order to confirm the positive result. This must be a traditional one offered at testing sites. Although this is an inconvenience it doesn’t affect the 10-day isolation start date, which will commence after the lateral flow positive result itself.”

It is expected that the council will receive enough kits in the new year to be able to test 10 percent of the Cheshire East population every week.

The roll out of these rapid tests in Cheshire East does not replace the need for social distancing measures, good hand hygiene and the wearing of face masks. It’s still important for residents to remember hands, face and space.

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