30 minute tests to be used in coronavirus hotspot Brentwood

Coronavirus hotspots such as Brentwood and Epping will be targeted with the new rapid testing scheme to help drive down cases.

Brentwood and Epping are still being badly affected by the virus – with cases stubbornly high two weeks since the second national lockdown started and three weeks since Essex volunteered to go into tier 2.

In the week between November 5 and November 12 cases in Brentwood increased from 197.4 to 246.8 per 100,000 people.

Epping increased from 159.5 to 230.1.

The average in Essex increased from 105.8 to 140.9.

The most recent death figures show that there were 43 hospital deaths in the week ending November 6 – that is the worst the rate has been since May.

Work has now begun to consider how Essex, together with partner organisations, can effectively use the 10,000 lateral flow tests which can provide results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab.

It is already being rolled out as part of whole-city testing in Liverpool, but Essex public health director Mike Gogarty said Essex needed to be smarter in its application.

He said: “We need to think how we will use all these tests sensibly – what has happened in Liverpool it seems is people who have been self isolating since April because they have been so worried have come out, got a test which has been negative, and then gone home again.

“The rate of positivity in Liverpool has been very very low.

“What we really need to do is identify those people who are most likely to be at risk and offer the test to them.

“One of the things we want to do is test contacts because they are the ones who are most likely to be infected.

“But why would they bother?

“What is hopeful is if you test contacts and test them again after a few days and they remain negative it is possible you can get them out of isolation quicker.

“So instead of having to isolate for 14 days there is a strong sense they may only have to isolate for 10 days.

“Assuming they gave a negative test. So there might be a strong incentive for people to come forward for a test.”

He highlighted specifically Brentwood and Epping, where the rates are not far off being double the Essex average, as notable areas where the rapid testing kits can be deployed successfully – as well as in care homes and schools.

He said: “We can use it in outbreaks.

“We have already started that through the PCR test to people in Brentwood and Epping who have contacted us.

“We can use it in care homes – to identify staff very quickly who might be infected – and we can use it to show visitors are negative there and then, and schools and to get people back to work quicker.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter