Covid-19 ‘SMART’ Testing Helps Liverpool City Region Stay in Tier 2
The success of the Liverpool Covid-19 Testing pilot, and the subsequent roll-out to the wider Liverpool City Region, has helped the area stay in Tier 2 – and may help reduce restrictions further in the future.
The leaders of the six Liverpool City Region Local Authorities and Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, are urging people to continue coming forward for the rapid test; as it is repeatedly testing people who have no symptoms in a targeted way which will have significant effect during the coming weeks and months as we strive to keep the spread of virus low.
The Liverpool City Region is one of the few places not in tier 3 in the country where anyone can turn up for rapid, regular and free testing without having symptoms of Covid-19.
All six Local Authorities in the Liverpool City Region (Halton, Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) are taking part in the extended programme which aims to use targeted testing to enable people to live more normal lives.
In addition to identifying people with the virus, who could unknowingly pass it on, regular testing will hopefully allow residents to return to the things they love – and continue to miss as a result of national and local restrictions.
There are now 20 testing centres for people without Covid symptoms in the Liverpool City Region, where people can be tested and get their results within an hour.
“SMART” testing refers to Systematic, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing, with the approach being based on the learning of the pilot in Liverpool which continues to inform how testing can be developed nationally.
Covid-19 infection rates have fallen across the city region’s 1.6 million people, now standing at around 100 per 100,000 people. At their peak in October rates were around 700 per 100,000.
Testing in this way does not mean that people should not continue to be vigilant, but the benefits of identifying those who are carrying the virus, without knowing, are already showing through.
In a joint statement, the Metro Mayor, Acting Mayor of Liverpool and Local Authority Leaders, said:
“When our region went from the highest tier into Tier 2 restrictions after the national lockdown ended, we said it was a vindication of the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of the 1.6m people who live in our region.
“Today’s announcement that we are to continue in Tier 2 is a credit to all of those people that acted responsibly to help reduce our transmission rates. Now is not the time to be complacent.
“Tier 2 is not without restrictions, but it does mean that people are able to enjoy a more ordinary Christmas. We cannot afford to undo all the hard work and sacrifice that people have made over the past few weeks.
“It is really important that we remain vigilant, celebrate responsibly and safely, especially if we are to avoid more severe restrictions in the new year. So please keep following the advice, get tested and keep each other safe.
“Coronavirus is the worst present you can give anybody this Christmas, so please look out for each other.”
Steve Rotheram Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
Cllr Rob Polhill Leader of Halton Council
Cllr Graham Morgan Leader of Knowsley Council
Wendy Simon Acting Mayor of Liverpool
Cllr Ian Maher Leader of Sefton Council
Cllr David Baines Leader of St Helens Council
Cllr Janette Williamson Leader of Wirral Council
Director of Testing and Mass Vaccination for Cheshire & Merseyside, Terry Whalley, said:
“SMART is a huge opportunity for the Liverpool City Region and I’ve no doubt that the unprecedented amount of testing we’ve been doing has helped us get the R down and allowed us to stay in Tier 2. We continue to lead the way on testing those without symptoms across the region.
“I believe that targeted repeat testing, two or three times a week, of certain groups of people can make a real difference to the way we live with Covid-19 as we continue to roll out an effective vaccine.
“We can make use of SMART to be as sure as possible that we are not carrying Covid-19 to the Christmas table or spreading it to our loved ones as we enjoy the festive period.
“Together, let’s keep proving that additional testing of those without symptoms can help protect lives and livelihoods, while of course still being careful to do the basics – hands, space, face.
“Look after your family and friends this Christmas and get tested to protect them and others now and into the new year.”