Up to 10% of UK's population may get weekly Covid tests after Govt asks health chiefs to deploy 30-minute saliva test

UP to 10 per cent of England's population could be tested every week in Boris Johnson's latest mass screening operation.

Government officials have asked local health chiefs to hand out 30-minute saliva test kits as NHS test and trace embarks on an "important new front in our fight against coronavirus."

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As part of the new operation, all directors of public health have been urged to sign up to receive rapid-result test kits for up to a tenth of their populations every week.

This is set to contain outbreaks of the virus, while also stopping more areas going into tougher lockdown tiers and allowing Brits more freedom.

If the on-the-spot saliva swabs are rolled out, it means up to five million tests could be taken a week, according to The Guardian.

But local health leaders raised concerns over the logistics of the potential testing scheme – including the cost and tracing people that are positive.

Greg Fell, the director of public health in Sheffield, said: "I’m going nowhere near it.

"It is an interesting idea, but is short on scientific backing and has huge logistical challenges.

"I don’t have the capacity for that. We ought to focus on delivering on stuff there is scientific basis for as opposed to taking out attention to things which aren’t yet established."

Last week the health secretary Matt Hancock told parliament the government had bought “many millions” of saliva tests made by the company Innova.

Officials say the rapid, on-the-spot swabs will help keep offices and schools open during the second wave.

A negative result may also allow restricted Brits back to the pub or theatre, according to a well-placed government source.

The rapid testing works by users simply taking a swab from inside the mouth or nostril, then mix it with a solution.


A few drops are placed on to the testing stick and a line quickly forms if the virus is detected.

A source told The Sun earlier this week: “Everybody’s really depressed because this second wave is much worse than anybody thought it was going to be.

“But it’s important to remember we have a lot of stuff in play that’s going to take the pressure off.

“The rapid-turnaround test will add a whole other dimension to our testing capabilities.”

But this new scheme will extend further than just trialling in schools and care homes – and is set to encompass a significant proportion of the population.

In the letter seen by The Guardian, Alex Cooper, director of rapid testing at NHS test and trace, said: "Each director of public health will be eligible to receive on a weekly basis the number of tests equivalent to 10 per cent of their population.”

The rollout is set to be “phased” with areas under tier 3 restrictions as top priority, with the potential to test the whole local population every 10 weeks.

But, Cooper said, the ambition is “to make this technology available for local areas to roll out at pace”, making the programme go nationwide “as quickly as possible”.

This comes as another 310 Brits lost their lives to coronavirus as deaths double in just a fortnight – while a further 24,701 people tested positive overnight.

Two weeks ago – Wednesday, October 14 – 137 people were recorded to have died, meaning the death rate has more than doubled.

Every London borough has now seen the rate of coronavirus cases spiral above the crucial threshold of 100 new cases a week per 100,000 people.

Official figures show the number of people testing positive in the capital – currently under strict Tier 2 measures – is spiralling.

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