Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working with Government on new testing technologies so that more people can be tested in the city, with results available quickly.

The first lateral flow antigen tests have completed initial validation and the city council is working with Government to help them understand and identify how this new technology can be used at scale through a pilot in the city. The pilot, which is already underway, is one of the first to take place in the country. The tests allow testing of a higher proportion of asymptomatic people, which helps to identify and isolate more people who are at high likelihood of spreading the virus, and to help break the chain of transmission.

Anyone who tests positive will still need to self-isolate in accordance with current guidance and to undertake a confirmatory test using the normal channels. Those who test positive must continue to book a PCR swab test if they have symptoms.

City council staff at the civic centre are being tested using Lateral Flow and testing will move to different locations around the city and into the county on a rolling basis in coming days and weeks.

Councillor Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “It is a real credit to the city that we’ve been asked to get involved in this testing pilot with Government. We are able to demonstrate real leadership in the fight against coronavirus with use of new testing technologies and being part of national first piloting. By testing people who do not have symptoms, it gives a negative or positive result within a short time frame and does not require a laboratory to process a test. Understanding testing with asymptomatic people can help us to break the cycle of transmission and help people to double check they are not a silent spreader, thereby reducing the risk of passing coronavirus onto friends, colleagues and family members. We hope we will be able to use these tests to minimise ongoing disruption for those who test negative, in turn supporting the economy and wider society to return to a more normal way of life. This is one part of our robust testing strategy to combat the virus in Stoke-on-Trent.  My thanks go to the team at the council who have been involved in making this happen.”

Dr Paul Edmondson Jones, director of adult social care and health said: “Current testing includes some testing of people who do not have symptoms, but new technologies will allow us to go further with the introduction of asymptomatic testing. It helps to ensure that those who test positive can isolate and prevent onwards infection. Staff have been very willing to come forward and be tested. We don’t expect to find more than 1 in a 100 at the most who are positive so are reassuring employees that them being tested will make a real impact in the fight against the virus. My thanks go to all involved.”

Dr Richard Harling, Director for Health and Care at Staffordshire County Council said: “A robust testing system is the quickest way to contain and stop any Covid-19 outbreak. In Staffordshire we have been quick to organise localised testing whenever cases rise, so we can get a true picture of the spread of the virus and take steps to stop it in its tracks. This pilot of new, quicker tests means we are able to get a rapid picture of the spread of Covid-19 in a particular area. By taking on average 20 minutes, people will be able to get their test results at the test centre, where they will also be able to access advice and guidance on self-isolation should their result come back positive. This new test is a positive step forward in our fight against Covid-19.”

Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. Swabbing and processing of these tests must currently be conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained personnel. The devices are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate, and we are looking at how this test could be self-administered. A number of city council staff have been trained to support the testing.

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