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Q&A: How will the mass home testing programme work?

Q&A: How will the mass home testing programme work?

Friday 22 October 2021

Q&A: How will the mass home testing programme work?

Friday 22 October 2021

All islanders are being asked to self-test for covid twice a week, from next Tuesday - but how will the programme work?

Express answers the key questions...

What’s the rationale? 

As more people begin to mix indoors this winter, it’s widely expected that the island will experience a fourth wave of covid.

As many individuals infected with the illness do not always show symptoms, some people may go on to infect others without knowing they have covid.

The Health Minister said the new home test regime aims to identify such islanders at an early stage.

This, he said, was important “to protect not only our personal health, but the wellbeing and livelihoods of all islanders.”

He continued: "Doing so maintains business continuity, supports school attendance and keeps our health and care services protected.

“The commitment of Islanders to the testing programme throughout this pandemic, has enabled loved ones to reconnect, businesses to operate safely and children and young people to be safe at school.”

Is the programme compulsory?

No, but the Government is hoping as many islanders as possible will take up the offer.

Will it cost me anything?

No, the programme is free to all islanders over the age of 12, regardless of vaccination status.

How do I get a pack of lateral flow tests?

From 26 October, islanders will be able to register online for a box of 25 tests. 

How long will they take to arrive? 

They’ll be delivered to islanders by Jersey Post. 

The Chief Minister said that he anticipated that the testing packs would arrive at islanders’ doors “within a day or so of the request coming in.” 

It is unclear if the Government will supply any extra funding or staffing to help deliver the tests if there is a rush in the run-up to the already busy Christmas postal period. 

The Chief Minister said the Government would be keeping an eye on the programme to resolve any teething issues if encountered in the early stage of the programme.

How do the tests work? 

Newly acquired from brand SureScreen, which is also in use in Guernsey, the tests provide results in 15 minutes - half the time of the previous brand in use locally. 

The testing process involves islanders taking a swab from their noses. 

The swab is then processed with the help of a solution, and added to a test ‘cassette’, which flags up the result. 

Video: A walk-through of the tests.

Once they have been received, islanders are asked to input their results into an online portal.

What if I get a positive result?

Anyone who returns a positive test should immediately input this result into the online portal and go into isolation. 

The Covid Safe Team will automatically be notified of any positive tests, and will contact islanders to arrange a PCR test to confirm their result.

When should I take a test?

Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf advised that islanders take tests “at least twice a week, but particularly at opportune moments ahead of social events, such as parties or meeting with people you don't normally see or with those who are at risk.” 

He also said it was “advisable” that islanders take a lateral flow test when they arrive home in Jersey after travelling, given that PCR tests at the border will no longer be a requirement for fully vaccinated individuals from 2 November. 

How sensitive are the tests?

While there were previously concerns that LFTs were not as effective at detecting infections, Deputy Medical Officer of Health Dr Ivan Muscat said this was not the case and that they were, in fact, “very effective."

Individuals infected with Delta - the dominant and more infectious covid variant - tend to have a higher “viral load”. This means that LFTs may detect infected people even before they start showing symptoms. 

What if I am part of other testing programmes? 

Anyone can take part in the home-testing programme, even if they are already registered for workforce or school screening.

“More than 1,300 businesses have registered with the lateral flow testing programme which keeps their staff and customers safe, many secondary students and education staff are regularly checking themselves with lateral flow tests, and we also continue to offer tests to direct contacts. These programmes remain open and you can still register online,” Deputy Renouf said. 

Is the change a money-saving measure?

The home LFT programme’s introduction comes less than a week before the removal of border PCR tests for travellers - an expensive programme for which Ministers have previously considered charging

However, Ministers were clear yesterday that, while there would be a cost benefit to removing border tests, the rationale for prioritising home testing from now on was not an economic one.

“So whilst we are reducing the testing at the border in respect of those who are fully vaccinated – what we are replacing this with is an intention to test more people on a weekly basis, using LFTs. We do rely on you as Islanders to help us in this cause. If you register, and take the tests, together we can protect the community even more than what we are doing at present.”

Are they doing this anywhere else?

Yes, the UK has been issuing covid-19 self-test kits for several months now. 

Guernsey firstly started giving lateral flow tests to travellers in July, but last week began offering them to all islanders, and encouraging them to test themselves twice a week.

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Posted by Chris Stephenson on
Given this is a medical device , is it MHRA approved and what is the efficiency range of
the test cassette given the test efficacy depends on the ability of the cassette to assess viral load
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