Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 2 December 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Boris Johnson set to expand mass coronavirus testing

Slovakia infection rates dropped by more than half after millions tested

The UK is set to expand its mass testing regime after initial success in a pilot scheme under way in Liverpool.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce mass testing will be introduced in three more English towns after declaring rapid testing was his lockdown “exit strategy”.

The aim is to identify those who are infected with Covid but are asymptomatic.

British officials are said to be keeping a close eye on recent nationwide testing in Slovakia as authorities there reported coronavirus infection rates dropped by more than half in the areas where testing was significantly ramped up.

Slovak officials said one of Mr Johnson’s special advisers on health was following the ambitious experiment, according to The Times.

More than three million of Slovakia’s 5.5 million population were given free antigen test kits during a two-day operation a week ago.

About 1 per cent of those tested returned a positive result.

Officials said infection rates in the areas covered by the pilot scheme dropped by 55 per cent the following week - suggesting those who tested positive but were asymptomatic were self-isolating.

Announcing the scheme, Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic said he preferred the testing programme to a second nationwide lockdown.

While taking a test was voluntary, those who refused were being told to self-isolate.

Mr Matovic said Slovakia may screen all its citizens again in December to allow the government to relax restrictions.

He said: “We have stopped the coronavirus surge with the testing, but if we want to have an easier life with restaurants or cinemas open, we will have to make another move.

“There will be a public debate on whether the road to more freedom is a lockdown or another mass testing in a few weeks.”

In the UK, up to 12,000 Liverpudlians were estimated to have taken a coronavirus test at the weekend.

People were asked to participate in the citywide testing – boosted by the support of up to 1,000 troops - regardless of whether they had symptoms or not.

Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch said the army was on standby in case the programme needed expanding.

“This is definitely scalable,” he said.

Updated: November 9, 2020 06:54 PM

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