When will Leeds get mass Covid testing? Leeds Covid vaccine, testing and track and trace latest in full

The latest information in full on Covid testing, the vaccine and track and trace in Leeds

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 8:38 am

Leeds mass testing - what we know right now

Leeds City Council has expressed its interest in joining the government’s programme of large community testing for areas in Tier 3.

The new community testing offer set out by the Government is to help local areas detect asymptomatic cases, suppress the virus and offer a route out of the toughest restrictions.

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Leeds Council has expressed interest in the community testing programme

Authorities in Tier 3 areas such as Leeds Council were offered the opportunity to apply for the six-week testing programme which will test individuals over 11 years old by targeting specific geographical areas such as those with a high Coronavirus prevalence or on specific locations, employment sectors or workplaces where there is a high risk.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “We have expressed an interest in joining the government’s programme of large community testing for Tier 3 areas but are waiting to hear what this might entail when their prospectus outlining options is published.

“As a council and a city we are open to exploring all possible avenues for getting this virus under control and have launched our local contact tracing and support service.

“This will work alongside the targeted testing we are also soon to roll out across groups which would provide the most benefit in controlling the spread.

“We’re putting a great deal of effort in to working closely with health colleagues and others across other city sectors to ensure the best use of resources as we integrate localised testing, contact tracing and preparations for future vaccination programmes.”

Local Directors of Public Health will be supported to develop approaches that work for their community, backed by national support and funding.

The Government will also work in partnership with local authorities to develop initiatives to encourage participation, based on their knowledge of local populations and areas. Examples might include discount schemes with local businesses, partnerships with community organisations or local employers, or door knocking campaigns.

If the community testing programme is successful, it will be expanded into next year.

Community testing will make use of rapid Lateral Flow Tests which give results within an hour.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “By expanding our testing to include people showing no symptoms, we are finding more positive cases more quickly and breaking chains of transmission. Up to a third of people have coronavirus without symptoms, so it is incredibly important to be testing those who could be infecting others unknowingly.

"When more people come forward for regular community testing, we have a much greater chance of driving down prevalence of the virus and saving lives.

“I know people in the top tiers are facing a particularly difficult time, which is why we are supporting them with mass community testing to provide a route towards lowering the level of restrictions they face.

“We are committed to working with local areas to make this work for their communities and I encourage all those living in areas where community testing is offered to come forward and get tested.”

Leeds Covid vaccine - what we know right now

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.

Officials said the vaccine will be made available “from next week”.

Plans are "well on track" for rolling out Covid-19 vaccines across Leeds to the most vulnerable people this month, Leeds City Council have said.

Health and care workers, people over 80 and care home residents will be the first to get a vaccine, likely to start from next week.

Vaccination sites are being considered within the NHS, but also in community settings in Leeds.

The mass-vaccination of the public in Leeds is expected to start early in the new year.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.

"This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

The council's director of public health, Victoria Eaton, has confirmed the council is working with the NHS to plan how to deploy the vaccines in Leeds.

Speaking at a meeting last week, Ms Eaton said: "It's really positive news about where we are heading with the vaccine, both before Christmas and in the new year.

"We've got this great news that we have three potential vaccines. We're well on track with our plans with NHS colleagues about how we want to deploy those in Leeds.

"We're looking at a variety of sites both in the NHS and in broader community settings - looking at what that plan might look like, which is at scale for a city the size of Leeds.

“It will start with health and care workers, people who are over 80 and also care home residents, but will very quickly in the new year move to mass-vaccination of the public.

"This is a real priority to make sure we get this right for the city and we want to make sure that everything else we do supports that goal."

Leeds track and trace changes - what we know right now

A new local contact tracing system for Leeds was launched on Monday.

The Leeds COVID-19 Connect and Support Service will work in tandem with the current national tracing team and the local service will get in touch with residents who may need to self-isolate and can’t be contacted by the national service after a day.

The service will begin in areas of Leeds where case numbers mean greater support and outreach is needed, before being scaled up to include the rest of the city.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Contact tracing plays an absolutely critical part in controlling the spread of the virus and minimising the potential for transmission between people who may not know they need to isolate to protect themselves and others.

“Having a Leeds-based system in place will mean that, working with our third sector partners, we can bring our local knowledge and experience into play whilst also offering the added reassurance that we’ll be here to help and support residents who might be worried about self-isolating, particularly the vulnerable and those on low incomes.

“We’ve already seen some incredible work take place across our communities to help contain the spread of the virus and protect each other, which has had a huge impact and it’s encouraging to see that work taking making further strides at local level.”

With a team of staff working from home, the local team’s key roles will be to both try to trace contacts and to give people advice and guidance to help them isolate for the required length of time, including support to shop for food, get medication and financial support and advice.

Local tracers will also have access to a language line to enable them to communicate with those who do not speak English as their first language.

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “The establishment of a local contact tracing service will give Leeds an invaluable new tool in our city’s fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities.

“We understand that the implications of having to self-isolate can be daunting, but having people on the ground in Leeds will give us more opportunities to ensure people who are contacted can access all the relevant support services and grants which are available to minimise the impact on their lives.”