More than 200 new city-centre coronavirus testing centres are to be set up by the government in a bid to ensure everyone in urban areas is within a 30-minute walk of a test.
The fresh “ambition” set by NHS Test and Trace will be allied to Boris Johnson’s latest target of increasing testing capacity to half a million tests per day by the end of October.
At present just 15 walk-in centres exist, but the mass expansion will be part of a plan to ensure the UK is prepared for a possible second spike of Covid-19 this winter, along with the seasonal flu outbreaks.
The new aim of ensuring every city and town dweller is within half an hour’s walk of a test by October 31 will be accompanied by a separate target to ensure those in rural areas are also 30 minutes by car from a testing centre.
Most of the walk-in centres have shown a rapid turnaround time for results that far exceeds that of home testing kits, and are seen as more convenient for vulnerable and poorer citizens who don’t have a car.
Each of the centres, which will be accessible by foot or by cycle and will be Covid-secure, will have the capacity to test hundreds of people in one day.
Home testing won’t be scrapped, but it is expected to mainly service those patients waiting for negative Covid tests before going to hospital for routine operations.
A new “Lighthouse Laboratory” in Newport was also unveiled by the NHS as part of the drive to ramp up its testing capacity.
The new moves came as NHS Test and Trace posted its best figures since its creation six weeks ago.
The latest figures for the week between July 9 and July 15 showed that of the 3,887 people who had their positive Covid case transferred to the contact tracing system, 3,098 (79.7%) were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts. Read more