More than half a million rapid-turnaround coronavirus tests will be sent out to public health leaders this week to detect asymptomatic cases.
The 600,000 lateral flow test kits will be issued to over 50 directors of public health across England to enable local teams to test high-risk and priority groups in the community.
Each authority will receive a batch of 10,000 antigen lateral flow devices as part of a new pilot scheme.
The test kits – which are already being rolled out as part of whole-city testing in Liverpool that began on Friday – can provide results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab.
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.”
This initial 600,000 batch will be followed up with a weekly allocation of lateral flow antigen tests, the government said.
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).
Any director of public health who wants to start rolling out local testing using lateral flow tests can do so by contacting DHSC.