If you're going to work, get Covid tested twice a week to keep your family safe

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Aidan Fowler

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Aidan Fowler - Credit: DHSC

With around one in three people with coronavirus not displaying symptoms, Covid-19 can quickly spread in our communities undetected.

You can still pass the virus on to others even if you don’t have symptoms, so it is important we identify as many cases as possible, self-isolate and ultimately break these chains of transmission.

Quickly identifying cases and breaking chains of transmission is how we can reduce the impact of this deadly virus.

As our knowledge of the virus has evolved, we have rapidly expanded our testing capacity to more than 800,000 tests per day, including PCR tests and lateral flow devices (LFDs) as well as other technologies, and we have developed innovative technology to offer different types of tests for different purposes.

LFDs can detect cases with high levels of virus, making them effective in finding individuals who are the most likely to transmit the disease at the point they are tested, including those not showing symptoms. With results available in around 30 minutes, without the need for a laboratory, these devices can quickly find cases which would not otherwise have been found.

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On their own, these tests are not a silver bullet for stopping the spread of the virus and it is still crucial that people comply with the current lockdown measures, including those who receive a negative test result. But what they do is offer a rapid testing for workplaces whose employees are not able to work from home.

LFDs used by the government go through a rigorous evaluation by the country’s leading scientists. Rapid testing of NHS workforce and pilots in workplaces across the country, including Heathrow and food manufacturing company Moy Park, are keeping national infrastructure up and running. 

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The government has offered rapid asymptomatic testing to every local authority. During this national lockdown, councils are encouraged to target testing at people who are unable to work from home, keeping our essential services open and offering a layer of support for those absolutely cannot work from home.

The London Borough of Brent is offering critical workers and those who cannot work from home repeat, rapid asymptomatic testing to slow down the secret spread of Covid in communities.

Delivered seven-days a week through nine locally run lateral flow testing sites, over 46,500 asymptomatic tests have been carried out to date. On average, over 200 previously hidden cases are being identified each week in people who were showing no symptoms at all so could have been helping to spread this deadly virus without knowing.

Brent’s approach has always been to put local needs at the heart of its community testing rollout.

Sites have been set-up in areas with high infection rates, including Harlesden which was hardest hit during the first wave, in places of worship to make testing more accessible for Brent’s diverse communities, and in areas where more people cannot work from home, for example Wembley Park which has a high number of construction workers.  

Brent has also made testing easier and more accessible for homeless people by setting up dedicated booths at two testing sites and creating a separate booking process which doesn’t require digital access.

If you live or work in Brent and cannot work from home, get tested twice a week to keep your loved ones and community safe. To find out more and book, visit www.brent.gov.uk/rapidtesting

Asymptomatic testing using LFDs is just one tool to combat COVID-19. Whilst we are at a crucial point in controlling the pandemic, sticking to the guidance has never been more important.

  • Dr Aidan Fowler is the national director of patient safety in England and a deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health and Social Care.

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