UK’s first city-wide coronavirus testing kicks off

Liverpool on Friday began England’s first city-wide trial of coronavirus testing in an attempt to prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed during the country’s second wave of the pandemic.

All of the northwestern city’s 500,000 residents as well as people working there will be offered repeat tests, even if asymptomatic, under the pilot trial, which will initially run for two weeks.

Hundreds of soldiers took over a local holiday park, some of the 2,000 armed forces personnel called in to support the testing drive.

Jurgen Klopp, the German manager of the Liverpool football team, urged people in a Twitter video message to get tested, saying “let’s do it for Liverpool”.

“It’s a big day, I hope,” he told a news conference.

“We try to do everything to make the people aware of the big opportunity we got.

“It’s a big step to save our loved ones, friends, colleagues, everybody. I really hope as many people as possible use the opportunity because it is a big opportunity.”

Liverpool last month became the first English city to enter the most severe tier of regional lockdown as it battled a spike in cases, followed by nearby Manchester.

A month-long nationwide lockdown then came into force on Thursday after cases began to spiral in all parts of England.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, whose brother died of Covid-19 last month, said the pilot could save lives and “get the city out of tier three restrictions”.

Some residents began to arrive at the Liverpool Tennis Centre, one of six new testing facilities opening in the city, ahead of its midday opening.

“I want to be able to go for Christmas dinner,” said 71-year-old Veronica Atkinson, who admitted she was a “bit apprehensive” about getting tested. (AFP | Oli SCARFF with James PHEBY and Joe JACKSON)