A trial programme of weekly COVID-19 infection testing using saliva sampling kits has been launched in Southampton.
Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton and the NHS will lead the programme.
If successful, the programme could pave the way for wider regular testing, helping to stop the spread of the virus.
The aim of the scheme is to involve participants over the course of the programme so that around 14,000 are taking part in the later stages.
‘The non-invasive saliva test allows easier testing of people of all ages and ensures that everyone in the household gets tested regardless of symptoms and on a regular basis,’ said Dr Debbie Chase, interim director of public health at Southampton City Council.
We will initially invite Southampton’s 800-strong GP practice workforce to take part, followed by some other essential key workers and some University of Southampton staff and students as we evaluate the logistics needed for regular testing of entire households.’
Registration for these groups will begin this week, with the first saliva sample kits delivered a week later.
Weekly samples will then be collected from homes or returned to an agreed location and participants will receive results no later than 48 hours.
The details of those who test positive will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contact tracing can start immediately.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will test samples in their Weybridge laboratories with Optigene’s COVID-19 LAMP test, using an approach pioneered by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, working alongside the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
Those testing negative can continue to follow government guidelines in their daily activities and work.
‘In a matter of days, a partnership came together across local government and public services, our local hospital Trusts, GPs and the University of Southampton to push this forward,’ said Dr Simon Bryant, chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Framework’s Preventing Spread of Infection Cell.
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