Hundreds tested for coronavirus as pilot scheme gets under way in Liverpool

By Eleanor Barlow, PA
·3-min read

Hundreds of people have been tested for coronavirus as a new pilot scheme started in Liverpool.

On Friday, queues built up outside new test centres which were opened at midday as part of the mass coronavirus testing programme.

At Liverpool Tennis Centre, one of the six facilities which opened on Friday, people began to wait outside about 45 minutes before it opened.

Veronica Atkinson, 71, who was among those in the queue, said she was a “bit apprehensive” but wanted to know the result.

She said: “I want to be able to go for Christmas dinner.”

An 86-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said: “I’m retired and I live nearby so I thought I’d come down.

“The Test and Trace doesn’t seem to have worked so this seems to be the best system.”

The armed forces have been brought into the city to help deliver the scheme, which uses lateral flow tests to deliver results in under an hour for people who are not showing symptoms of the virus.

Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, standing joint commander for the UK, said: “We’ve brought up 2,000 soldiers from 17 different units, from 20 locations across the country, got them here in 48 hours, tested them, gave them training, issued their PPE and set up the first asymptomatic test centre here for Friday lunchtime.

“It has been a monumental effort but I’d say it is what we’re good at.”

HEALTH Coronavirus Liverpool
(PA Graphics)

He said at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool, where residents were queueing along the waterfront to have a test, 20 bays had been set up and soldiers in each of them would carry out six tests an hour, meaning thousands every day.

He said: “Everyone’s been just amazingly positive. The actual results speak for themselves here.”

Director of public health for Liverpool Matt Ashton said there was capacity for 85 centres to be set up by the end of the pilot scheme, which is due to last for 10 days initially, with the prospect of it being extended.

He told the PA news agency: “It’ll give us a really good understanding of the virus in the city, the levels of the virus and where it is.

“It allows us to target our resources properly but it also allows us to help people understand their personal status and then control the spread of the virus, break the chains of transmission.

“This is not a top-down approach.

“This has absolutely been led by the city, requested by the city and this is about our communities being activated and helping to keep themselves and everybody else in the city safe.”

Soldiers ready to carry out tests at the Liverpool Tennis Centre in Wavertree
Soldiers ready to carry out tests at the Liverpool Tennis Centre in Wavertree (Peter Byrne/PA)
Coronavirus – Fri Nov 6, 2020
People at The Exhibition Centre in Liverpool, which has been set up as a testing centre (Peter Byrne/PA)

He said there had been a “strong, positive reaction” to the scheme so far and there was capacity to test everyone who wanted to be tested twice during the pilot period.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “I think it’s logistically one of the biggest things that’s been undertaken for mass testing ever, certainly in the UK and possibly in Europe.

“So I’m really impressed, really grateful for everybody’s work and everybody’s efforts.”

He said he thought the trial would be a success and then hoped it would be rolled out across the country.

He added: “I’m positive that the Government will then change tack and start fighting the virus in a proactive way, mass testing continually to help us getting back to some normality.”