People in Liverpool fear no one will believe the Covid test results they receive in a mass swabbing scheme set to start this week, as experts admit the trial will not catch every case.
Starting this Friday, the city’s 500,000 residents will be asked to go for regular Covid-19 checks in the first major step for Operation Moonshot – the scheme Number 10 hopes will get the UK on top of the pandemic by spring 2021.
But Oxford University’s Professor Sir John Bell, chairman of the Government’s New Test Approvals Group, acknowledged today the tests — which will give results within an hour — will only be able to identify the ‘majority’ of infected people.
If successful, the city-wide approach is expected to be rolled out to towns and cities nationwide.
But Liverpudlians told MailOnline today they are unsure how the test results will be received.
A testing facility in Wavertree, Liverpool, remains quiet this afternoon ahead of a mass swabbing trial for 500,000 local residents that will begin on Friday
Friday’s trial is the first step of Operation Moonshot, but Government experts have admitted the scheme will not catch every single case of Covid-19
Sharon Roberts, 56, cafe worker said: ‘It’s a good idea for people to be tested but I don’t think people will believe the results.
‘There’s so many false negatives and false positives and people who have been told they have it but have no symptoms.
‘It’s basically a shambles. I think it’s all been reactive rather than proactive from the very beginning. We are an island, why didn’t we just shut our borders from the very start.’
Mary Mint, 70, Retired Convenor for the trade unions, said she would take a test if she got the chance, adding: ‘This is how it should have been done from the start – the military coming in and doing it with NHS England. Liverpool is now trying to protect its people from the virus and move forward.’
Boris Johnson today thanked leaders in Liverpool for ‘volunteering’ their city for the pilot which, if successful, could finally send the virus packing.
The move comes after the Prime Minister announced that England would enter a second national lockdown
Cafe worker Sharon Roberts has welcomed the roll-out of mass testing in Liverpool, but fears many locals will not believe their results, describing the Government’s response to the pandemic as ‘shambolic’
Tests are expected to give results within an hour, with hospitals, schools and care homes given first priority in the city
And the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, claimed the trial ‘could enable us to have some semblance of a normal Christmas here in Liverpool’, if it is successful.
The Liverpool pilot will see testing sites set up in 30 locations across the city, which will be manned by armed forces.
Rapid tests will be used to check residents – regardless of whether they have symptoms of the virus – for infections for at least six weeks from Friday, when the scheme starts.
Hospitals, schools, care homes and other key institutions will be the first priority. But the tests could ultimately be used to free up large sections of society.
Armed forces will be deployed at 30 testing sites across Liverpool from Friday as the Government prepares to diagnose the ‘majority’ of local Covid-19 cases
Liverpool was placed under Tier 3 lockdown last month, but local bricklayer Richard Robinson says mass testing could be the ‘pebble in the pond’ for positive change
They will allow symptomatic and asymptomatic cases of the virus to be detected, meaning those infected can be asked to self-isolate rapidly, which is hoped will markedly curb the spread of the virus and allow people to return to a more normal way of life.
In Tier Three Liverpool, where it will be launched, infections have plummeted 30 per cent in the last seven days.
Bricklayer Richard Robinson, 69, said: ‘This has to be a good thing, the way that the dire situation is in Liverpool at the moment this has got to be a plus for us, it can only help the city.
‘Liverpool can be the pebble in the pond and the place where the positive change starts and get us to where we need to be.
Sir John Bell warned the tests in Liverpool will not identify everyone that has the virus
Anyone living in the city will be able to be tested from Friday, even if they are not experiencing Covid-19 symptoms
Testing facilities remain quiet ahead of the new scheme on Friday, when people will be able to book a test online, by walk-up, or by invitation from the local authority
‘It’s going to help the health service, they are bursting at the doors, you have to think of the staff.
‘This could really help us get out of lockdown quicker than anywhere else. The next problem we will have is that even if we get a vaccine, how do we know it is going to work.’
Thursday’s second lockdown of England has left some locals feeling ‘frightened,’ said Carol Green, 60, who welcomed the testing scheme as she did some Christmas shopping before stricter measures.
Tian Tso, 36, owner of Ropes and Twines Cafe on Bold Street, said: ‘It’s a good step forward in the right direction because it means we can start getting some proper figures about how widespread the virus really is and help us better understand what we are dealing with.
Liverpool business owner Tian Tso said mass testing will give people ‘peace of mind’. Local infections have plummeted 30 per cent in the last seven days ahead of the new scheme
Stay at home mum Olivia Pih questioned why Liverpool was the ‘guinea pig,’ for the testing trial
‘It will give people peace of mind because it causes a lot of anxiety not knowing. We have to look at this positively that the mass testing is here now, no one knows whether it’s too late so now we have it, it has to be a good thing.’
Sharon Ginley, 66, retired factory worker, said: ‘They have got to do something, the sooner we get something done, the sooner we can all go back to normal.
‘People are losing their jobs and I think if people actually stuck to the rules a bit more we would get this all over and done with quicker.
‘It doesn’t matter what the government does, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t but I think it will be a good thing, especially if people don’t have to travel to somewhere like Dundee to get a test.’
Carol Green said many people were ‘frightened,’ by the pandemic as she carried out some last-minute shopping before England went into lockdown on Thursday
While many in Liverpool have welcomed the news, cafe owner Otto Mellouki said the city has lacked ‘decent support’ from central government, as business face a drop in footfall
Otto Mellouki, 40, owner of Organico cafe, said: ‘We haven’t had any decent support from the central government over the last few weeks while we have been in Tier 3 lockdown.
‘We were the first ones to go into it but it had a massively negative impact on businesses.
‘Footfall has dropped in the city centre and I don’t think that mass testing will help the city. You have to ask ‘why Liverpool?’ why not test it in London, we don’t have a Nightingale Hospital.
‘If Liverpool has such high infection rates then why don’t we have a hospital to deal with the virus.’
Olivia Pih, 24, stay at home mum said: ‘I think it’s a good thing if it means there’s better access to testing because that has been a major issue so far but you do have to question why Liverpool.
‘It feels a bit like they are using us as a guinea pig and fit a rhetoric that they’ve already had that we are somehow the worst hit or that people here haven’t been following the rules properly.’
How will testing a whole city for coronavirus work?
Who can ask for a test?
Anyone living or working in the city can be tested regularly from Friday, even if they have no symptoms.
What kind of tests will be used?
Testing will be carried out using a combination of existing tests, as well as new rapid turnaround lateral flow tests.
There will also be Lamp (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology deployed in Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for NHS staff, promising to deliver significant volumes of tests.
Where can people get a test?
Testing will be carried out at new and existing sites across the city, including in hospitals, care home settings, schools, universities, workplaces and using at-home kits.
People can book a test online, by walk-up, or by invitation from the local authority.
Liverpool City Council will set out later this week how residents and workers will be able to access the tests.
How will people get their test results?
Results will be received from NHS Test and Trace via text and email. Those who test positive and their contacts will be asked to self-isolate in the usual way.
How often will people be able to be tested?
The exact details are yet to be revealed but Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said people could be tested on a ‘regular basis’.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The offer to the people of Liverpool is clear, which is that anyone can be tested regardless of whether you have the symptoms or not, and we will make available enough testing capacity to do that on a regular basis.’
What difference will this make?
Mr Jenrick said: ‘This will mean that we’ll be able to get on top of the virus faster, understand where there are positive cases and ask those people to self-isolate, to properly contact trace everyone they’ve been in contact with and get a much better picture of what’s happening with the virus, where it is within the city.’
Will this be confined to Liverpool?
Liverpool is the first city in England to have mass testing.
It is a pilot scheme designed to see whether testing a whole city can work.
Ministers hope to roll out the system to other towns and cities if it is successful.