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The milestone was reached on Sunday, January 24, with over 10,000 positive Covid-19 cases having now been identified as part of the pilot – even though they were showing no symptoms at all.
The news comes as leaders once again encouraged anyone who must continue to work or care for others to get repeatedly tested.
Initially piloted in Liverpool, SMART (Systematic, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing) was developed to enable people without symptoms to get tested for Covid-19 and encourage them to live more normal lives through repeat testing.
Following the initial pilot phase, the scheme was extended to include the entire region, with all six Local Authorities in the Liverpool City Region (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral) are taking part in the programme.
Now, with national lockdown regulations in place and most people asked to stay at home, SMART testing has been re-prioritised for those who must continue to mix with others – either through essential work or paid/unpaid caring commitments.
This includes those who work in the emergency services, and also applies to people who are keeping essential services running during the lockdown, such as transport workers, carers, energy suppliers, delivery drivers and essential retailers.
While 500,000 tests is a key landmark for the SMART Testing programme, the leaders of the six borough Local Authorities and Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, are urging essential workers to keep coming forward for the rapid test.
“The fact that half a million people in the Liverpool City Region have come forward to get tested since the pilot began is a real show of commitment from local people in the fight against Covid-19 and one of which everyone who has taken part can be proud.
“The more we know about the spread of the virus, where the outbreaks are and which groups it is affecting, the more effectively we can tackle it.
“One of the major motivations in piloting mass testing in the city region was to help us build the infrastructure that would later help us to roll out the Coronavirus vaccine as quickly and safely as possible.
“We are confident that the capability, expertise and infrastructure are in place and are calling on the government to work with us to accelerate vaccinations across our region.
“Please continue to be vigilant; the new variant of Covid-19 is spread more easily. Cases might be starting to come down, but we are still seeing extremely high numbers of people being admitted to hospital and, sadly, dying from Covid-19.
“It’s as important as ever now to stay at home unless absolutely essential, to wear a mask, maintain a safe distance from others and wash your hands.
“For those local heroes who must continue to work, provide essential services and care for others during lockdown, please keep coming forward and getting tested.
“Our thanks again go to every one of you.”
Anyone who must mix with others during lockdown, for legitimate work or care reasons, can simply turn-up for rapid, regular and free testing without having symptoms of Covid-19. People taking the test usually get their results within the hour.
In addition to the City Region testing facilities, a new non-symptomatic test centre has also been set-up in Cheshire.
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