By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter
A west London council has become the first in the capital to start distributing new “pregnancy-style” Covid-19 tests that give results in under 30 minutes.
Hammersmith and Fulham council will initially give the rapid tests to staff in GP surgeries and social care – including those who are asymptomatic.
The authority said it will soon receive enough of the “lateral flow” swab tests from the Government to supply 20,000 people per week, from now until the end of March.
The tests will then be made available to other key workers such as teachers and social workers, as well as people living in care and residential homes.
In the run-up to Christmas, the council also hopes to offer the lateral flow tests to people who want to visit relatives in care homes.
Councillor Ben Coleman, the cabinet member for health, said: “Our goal is for everyone to see their loved ones safely in our care homes by getting a test on the spot. And this isn’t just for Christmas – we’ll keep the tests going next year, too.”
The Department of Health has been sending out huge quantities of the new tests to a limited number of councils across the country.
Twenty-five of London’s 32 boroughs have been receiving them this week, including Ealing, Hounslow and Kensington and Chelsea. But other authorities have yet to confirm when they will distribute the tests.
Hammersmith and Fulham council is also set to expand its local test and trace programme.
This local test and trace system is separate from the national version run by the NHS and Serco, which has struggled across the country to contact sufficient numbers of people who test positive.
Council leader Stephen Cowan, said: “With the continued high infection rates, we will do everything possible to protect people by stepping up the fight against Covid-19 with local targeted testing allied with robust track and tracing.
“I want to thank all the partners who are helping us deliver this service and appeal to everyone in the borough to continue to stick to the advice to stay at home to save lives during this lockdown. We can limit the dreadful effects of this pandemic if we all pull together.”
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