Covid-19 Testing Proposals
- Meeting of City of York Outbreak Management Advisory Board, Wednesday, 18 November 2020 5.30 pm (Item 70.)
Sharon Stoltz, Director of Public Health, City of York Council, outlined the different proposals for additional testing capabilities. The Department of Health and Care had asked local authorities to take more responsibility for this locally. Testing was especially important for the hard to reach communities that would struggle to get access to a testing site in the city centre. Sharon welcomed any suggestions on how this could be supported by the organisations’ members.
Fiona Phillips explained the differences regarding the various tests that were currently available. The PCR tests were reliable and had been used for the majority of the Covid-19 period so far but it took at least 24 hours to receive the results. The LAMP tests provided a much quicker result but had a slightly higher rate of false negatives. Due to speediness of the test, both hospitals and universities were looking into this method. The lateral flow tests were a new testing technology that was currently being used to pilot mass testing in Liverpool. The accuracy of this test relied on it being administered and evaluated by a health care professional. This method would also require a follow up PCR test to confirm the results. No test was 100% accurate and due to the novelty of the virus, there was no gold standard to which tests could be compared.
The group discussed the different ways in which local testing provision could be enhanced using the new Lateral Flow Test technology. The options put forward were to use them for ‘ring testing (testing all contacts of a case), for targeted testing of high risk communities, or for mass testing of the whole population. The group thought that targeted asymptomatic testing seemed to be the most appropriate use of resource and capacity at the present time.
The group discussed the different delivery models that could be used for targeted population testing. The options presented in the meeting were: a central location; a smaller central location with satellite sites across the city; or a mobile testing unit which could be used to target specific areas of need.
Lisa Winward, Chief Constable for North Yorkshire Police, asked how sure we were that people were keen to take up testing and whether any additional freedoms would be granted to those who tested negative. As testing was not mandated, Sharon explained that it relied on people to follow the guidance and take a test when asked. As for the ‘Covid-19 passports’, there was not enough understanding to be able to provide this yet. Sharon reported that this was being discussed nationally.
Alison Semmence, Chief Executive of York CVS, asked whether the voluntary sector would be given testing priority. Fiona confirmed that all social care staff, domiciliary care and informal carers would be included.
The Chair endorsed the whole city approach to testing and asked that the expression of interest be submitted. Everyone agreed that it should be a ‘hub and spoke’ or mobile model. Clarity should also be sought around the required financial support for people self-isolating. The Board noted the verbal update.