The battle to stop the spread on COVID-19 in Cumbria is being boosted by the roll-out of asymptomatic Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing around the county.
LFD tests provide a result within 30 minutes, with no need for tests to be sent away to a laboratory for analysis. Regular LFD testing of people without COVID-19 symptoms is a key part of the Government’s strategy to control the spread of the virus. LFD testing helps spot asymptomatic carriers, people who do have COVID-19 and are infectious but are not ill. These people can then self-isolate to protect others.
The Government plan has two delivery strands, one led nationally by the Department of Health and Social Care and one led locally by Directors of Public Health. The national strand is focused on NHS staff, social care staff, schools and colleges and larger businesses.
Work being led locally in Cumbria is currently focussing on other frontline employee groups where LFD testing is planned to support the continued provision of key services. These include:
Fire and Rescue
Mountain Rescue and RNLI
County and District council frontline teams
Lake District National Park
Early Years Nursery providers and childminders
Private sector businesses where employees cannot work from home.
This is a large and complex programme, which will grow over time. Where staffing and premises permit, the county council will offer the choice to provide training and equipment to allow organisations to manage their own LFD testing programme themselves, with ongoing support where required. This approach has already been successfully implemented with Cumbria Police and Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service with positive feedback received.
Where it is not possible for an organisation to manage their own LFD Testing programme, the council is establishing a network of LFD testing sites across the county which eligible staff will be able to visit to get a regular test. Work is underway with a number of schools which are already trained, have suitable premises and are delivering LFD testing to their own workforce and who are willing to open their testing sites out of school hours. The sites will be confirmed as soon as possible, with more locations expected to open in the weeks that follow.
All test results feed into the National NHS Test and Trace system. Colin Cox, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, said: “LFD testing has an important role to play in how we keep infections down and is part of the wider strategy to get Cumbria back to normal. Setting up this local testing system is another big logistical challenge, but with our partners we are making really good progress with thousands of tests already conducted. As expected, those tests have identified people who were infectious with COVID-19 but didn’t feel ill, and didn’t show any signs they were carrying the virus. That has meant we’ve stopped outbreaks and minimised the impact on critical local services like the police.
“People may have heard that LFD tests aren’t accurate. While it’s correct that they are less accurate than PCR tests, they still pick up around 80% of positive cases, and more when the viral load is high, so any positive cases found will reduce the number of infectious people out in the community. That has a real and beneficial impact. “I do understand that there is a keen demand for testing from many organisations and there is a lot more work to do, but our aspiration is to make LFD testing widely available and the offer will grow over time .” If your organisation is interested in LFD testing please email: ask.LFT@cumbria.gov.uk