Published: 15:56, 27 November 2020
| Updated: 16:23, 27 November 2020
A widespread rapid testing programme for critical workers without symptoms of coronavirus is to go on trial in Medway.
Currently only those displaying signs of having the virus are able to book a test but the pilot will test all key workers in the community whether they are showing symptoms or not.
Fire, police, prison, social care and education staff who live in Medway will be offered regular tests under the plans.
This type of testing, which will help provide a more accurate picture of cases in Medway and help reduce the spread of the virus, follows in the footsteps of a successful mass testing pilot by Liverpool City Council.
The new type of testing being put to work in Medway is faster than current tests with results delivered within around 30 minutes of the test taking place.
It is anticipated to be launched in early December.
Medway Council will directly contact organisations of eligible critical workers to advise how their employees can access the new test.
The council will review demand for the pilot and will continue to monitor closely the number of cases locally with a view of providing additional targeted testing in the community in due course.
Medway Council's director of Public Health, James Williams, said: "This type of new testing will provide a more accurate picture of the number of cases in Medway, by identifying those who unknowingly have the virus.
"It will help pick up more cases and slow the spread of the virus locally and crucially enable those who test negative to get back to their everyday lives.
"We will initially be piloting symptom-free coronavirus testing for Medway's critical workers, but it's really important everyone continues to play their part to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.
"In the meantime, if you have a coronavirus symptom, follow the government advice - self-isolate and immediately book a test."
Regional director for Public Health England South East, Dr Alison Barnett, said: "We now know that at least two thirds of the people with covid-19 infection are not presenting for tests and many of them do not have typical or any symptoms.
"This means that someone could be highly infectious without being aware of it, and therefore unable to self-isolate to help stop the chain of transmission.
"This type of testing in Medway means more tests can be carried out and faster, this will help to break the chain of transmission by preventing spread by people without symptoms.
"The more cases we identify, the more people we can protect by lowering levels of infection in Medway."
Anyone who has symptoms – a persistent new cough, temperature, loss of taste and smell – or are living with someone with symptoms can access a test through the national testing programme.
You can book a test here.