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Lambeth and Southwark to receive 20,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits

London SE1 website team

Southwark and Lambeth are among the first 50 council areas in England to receive new rapid COVID-19 test kits.

Over half a million rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders this week.

Test kits will be issued to more than 50 directors of public health across England this week, to enable local teams to direct and deliver community testing based on their local knowledge.

Each will receive a batch of 10,000 antigen lateral flow devices as part of a new pilot to enable them to start testing priority groups.

Decisions on how to allocate the tests will be made in Lambeth by Dr Ruth Hutt and in Southwark by Dr Jin Lim as directors of public health.

Cllr Kieron Williams, leader of Southwark Council, said: "We're waiting to see the details, but we know increased testing is essential to stop the spread of the virus and to help prevent the need for further lockdowns, so this looks like good news.

"I welcome the fact the Government have said they will work with local councils to do this, so we can use our local knowledge to ensure these tests are used effectively.

"Delivering tens of thousands of tests will be a major operation, we're ready to play our part, but we'll need government support too.

"We are already facing an £11 million gap between the funding we've received for COVID and the costs we've incurred, so a roll out of this scale is not something we can absorb.

"Hopefully that support will be forthcoming, so we can quickly get these tests up and running to help keep the virus at bay and our community safe. "

They will be supported by NHS Test and Trace to expand testing programmes in their area through access to training and clinical and operational guidance.

This initial 600,000 batch will then be followed up with a weekly allocation of lateral flow antigen tests.

Directors of public health were prioritised for the first phase of rapid community testing based on the local prevalence of COVID-19 and expressions of interest to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The Government says that proactively testing asymptomatic individuals will help identify those who unknowingly have the virus and enable those who test positive and their contacts to self-isolate, which can help drive down the R rate locally and save lives. This is crucial to break the chains of transmission of the virus and to support critical industries, key workers and institutions.

With lower rates of transmission, those at highest risk from the virus will be more protected and residents will feel more confident in getting back to their day-to-day lives.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: "Last week we rolled out mass testing in Liverpool using new, rapid technology so we can detect this virus quicker than ever before, even in people who don't have symptoms. Mass testing is a vital tool to help us control this virus and get life more normal.

"I am delighted to say 10,000 of these tests will now be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to over 50 directors of public health as part of our asymptomatic testing strategy. I want to thank all directors of public health for their support and efforts over the past months to help us tackle this virus, bring it under control and get the country back to what we love doing."

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