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Thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests to be sent to local authorities this week

Written by on 9 November 2020

More than half a million rapid coronavirus tests will be sent to public health authorities this week to detect asymptomatic cases.

The 600,000 lateral flow test kits will be given to more than 50 directors of public health in England during the coming days.

They can deliver results in an hour.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Last week we rolled out mass testing in Liverpool using new, rapid technology so we can detect this virus quicker than ever before, even in people who don’t have symptoms.

“Mass testing is a vital tool to help us control this virus and get life more normal.”

The first group of tests will be followed by a weekly allocation, enough to cover the equivalent of 10% of the population.

It is hoped priority and high-risk groups can be tested on a weekly basis, although local health leaders will decide how the tests are allocated.

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Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, Baroness Dido Harding, said: “Building on national capacity of 500,000 tests a day we are now moving to the next stage of testing tailored around the individual needs of local areas with control in the hands of local directors of public health.

“There has been a huge amount of work to develop these new testing capabilities and I want to thank colleagues across NHS Test and Trace, Public Health England and the wider scientific community for ensuring that we are one of the first countries in the world who are able to deploy these new tests for the benefit of our public.”

The news comes on the day a breakthrough was announced in the race for a successful vaccine against COVID-19.

The jab from Pfizer and BioNTech has been found to be 90% effective in preventing people from getting the virus during phase three trials.

Boris Johnson said the coronavirus vaccine had cleared a “significant hurdle” but cautioned there were more challenges to overcome before it can be rolled out widely.

There are almost 40 potential vaccines being tested globally and more than 140 others in the early stages of testing, according to the World Health Organisation.