People without symptoms who want to check if they are infectious can walk up to get a test at the city’s first mass site, now open in the heart of Birmingham.
The rapid testing facility at Utilita Arena Birmingham (formerly known as Arena Birmingham) is now live.
Initially piloted for groups of council front-line staff, it is now open for all – just in time for people who might want to have a test before isolating ahead of forming Christmas bubbles.
The site has been stood up in fast time after a massive effort by public health teams in the city.
The tests are aimed at finding people who may have no symptoms but are infectious.
Following a successful pilot it is now open for the public, with free lateral flow tests for children and adults.
Children under 11 will need to be swabbed by their parents.
The lateral flow test is most useful for identifying people who are infectious on the day of the test but don’t have symptoms.
The test isn’t as good at finding the virus early in infection, so its value is mainly in finding infectious people who don’t know they are infected.
People who have symptoms should ring 119 or go to the NHS website to book a test at one of the 12 local symptomatic testing sites across the city – do not visit the mass testing site if you have any symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has.
This is to avert the risk of cross contamination.
The council is particularly encouraging testing for those that work in close contact jobs, such as taxi drivers, people working in kitchens or logistics and manufacturing, but the service is open to anyone who lives or works in Birmingham.
People attending the site should bring photo ID and proof of address, or place of work if you work in Birmingham but don’t live here.
Because of site security individuals are asked not to bring large bags, and bags may be subject to security checks. Full details are here.
The city’s mass testing plan has a target of carrying out 370,000 tests in eight to ten weeks.
The plan was pulled together rapidly in the fortnight since Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that Tier 3 areas would be supported to carry out mass testing.
It was trialled in Liverpool, with mixed results, but was seen as a vital tool in helping identify people without symptoms who might inadvertently infect others.
The lateral flow tests were also used nationwide to identify infectious students before they headed home earlier this month.
University of Birmingham rapid testing, carried out in the Great Hall, found just two positive cases out of more than 8,000 students, with around 1% found to be false negatives when double checked using the more sensitive PCR tests.
The tests come with a health warning – they are not perfect, and can deliver a small percentage of false negatives, meaning some of those tested will have the virus but not yet be infectious.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Together with the vaccination roll-out, increased testing is a key weapon in our battle against coronavirus and this marks a significant step in our city’s work to return to a more normal way of life.
“One in three people who have Covid-19 have no symptoms at all, so testing people without symptoms is one way we can stop the spread of the virus and keep our friends, family members, and neighbours safe.”
The testing site is open seven days a week, 8am to 6pm, though the site will offer reduced opening hours over the Christmas period.