The mass testing trial in Salford - the UK government programme to ramp up community testing for COVID-19 - has been reviewed and is to potentially refocus on trials in high risk environments.
Salford City Council was one of a number of organisations involved in the overall programme to test different technologies and groups of people in different parts of the country.
The aim of the mass testing trial agreed with Salford was to look at providing testing to asymptomatic people on a regular basis. The trial looked at process of collecting saliva in a secure tube which was sent to a laboratory to be tested and results sent via text message, currently within 48 hours.
City Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett said: “After a period of uncertainty, we have now been informed by letter dated 13 October that the ‘ask’ of the Salford pilot is changing. It has been explained that the increase in positive coronavirus cases and outbreaks means that nationally testing resources must be available for symptomatic testing and resources must as a priority be available for the NHS”.
“With our local partners in the NHS and voluntary sector we are reviewing the new ask sent to us this week for our pilot, to change focus onto high risk settings and individuals instead of wider population testing. We will be writing today to seek further reassurances on the impact on Salford residents.
“I am still committed to community testing as the way forward to defeat the pandemic and reopen our economy and communities. We hope to use the refocused pilot to work with Government closely to contain transmission in the city and prevent surges in areas of risk.”
Salford City Council agreed to be part of an early adopter after receiving assurances on 2 September from Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Test and Trace, regarding financial resources and use of data.
Since September, Salford City Council and NHS partners have been working with volunteers providing saliva samples for weekly tests to understand views of the testing process, the length of time for results to return, the impact of the weekly test on people’s lives and making clear who might benefit most from this test as it develops.
Next steps are in discussion between the Department of Health and Social Care with Salford City Council but potentially aim to test up to 1,000 people a day in targeted higher risk groups and settings to provide models for preventing and responding to surges.
Councillor Gina Reynold, Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing said: “The test is less invasive than the swab test and was given a thumbs up by the volunteers involved. We have tested groups of our workforce and received encouraging feedback from schools as the small scale use of saliva testing with teaching staff has kept classes open when one member of the team had to self-isolate”.