Many Britons have found themselves despairing over the dashed prospects of a COVID-free Christmas ever since Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown just over a week ago. For many of these same Britons, this despair is accompanied by a nagging question: if it’s been almost half a year since the country went into its first lockdown and we haven’t developed any other tactics for fighting this pandemic, how far have we really come?
It’s a depressing question. But fortunately, the answer might not be.
Last Friday, Liverpool City Council launched a new mass testing programme for all residents. Now, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we have kept tabs on Liverpool throughout the whole period following the first lockdown which has seen the city struggling to find its feet, enduring sporadic bursts of new measures and regulations that have isolated the area from the rest of the country. A case could be made that, as a result of its uniquely high rates of infection throughout the pandemic, Liverpool has had to serve as a sort of testing-ground for the government’s new strategies. It was one of the first areas of the UK to undergo a local lockdown and it had lived under Level 3 restrictions for a few weeks before that nation-wide system of classifications were introduced.
And with the launch of this new programme, Liverpool is once again playing the role of the government’s crash-test dummy. How so?
Well, the city’s new mass testing programme is the first in the UK to be based only on rapid tests. Importantly, this also means that they are using rapid tests that are approved by the national government, making them the first of their kind to have received the green light from Westminster since the pandemic came to British shores in March. Again, any familiarity with this blog will tell you that this is exactly the sort of tactic for which Lab Solutions have been passionately advocating since the first national lockdown.
With rapid testing, Liverpool’s residents might be able to live with more freedom than the rest of the country. Liverpool’s rapid tests can tell you whether you are currently infectious within an hour and the results hold for at least 24 hours, meaning that businesses might be able to re-open by only putting employees on shift who can display the text message they received indicating a negative result that morning. Similarly, customers can enter the premises on the same condition, displaying their own negative result at the door. In all likelihood, this might actually increase employment, given that local business would have to maintain a larger work-force in order to mitigate periodic loss of staff who are self-isolating.
In any case, you should be watching Liverpool closely over the coming weeks. This news is more than a ray of hope in what has been, for so many, a rather dismal winter.