RAPID-turnaround Covid-19 tests will be issued in Halton to increase the testing of priority and high-risk groups.

More than a half a million of these lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to public health leaders this week, signalling the next phase of the government’s plan to expand asymptomatic testing.

This innovative new technology – which is already being rolled out as part of whole-city testing in Liverpool – can provide results within an hour without needing to be processed in a lab.

Directors of public health across England, including Halton, will each receive a batch of 10,000 antigen lateral flow devices as part of a pilot to test priority groups in the community.

The initial batch will be followed up with a weekly allocation of the tests, equivalent to 10 per cent of the population.

It will be up to public health directors to decide how to use the tests, based on the specific needs of their communities.

Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury has welcomed the expansion of mass testing to the Halton area.

The MP, whose constituency includes East Runcorn, held a virtual meeting with health secretary Matt Hancock on Monday evening where the plans were revealed.

Mike said: "This is an important step in getting the local outbreak under control as quickly as possible.

"Uptake in testing has been really positive in the city of Liverpool itself, and I fully expect it to be the same case when testing is expanded still further."

During the meeting, Mike also urged the health secretary to invest more money in the track and trace system, which so far has not been fit for purpose.

Mike said: "To really get a handle on this pandemic and end the cycle of lockdowns, testing isn't enough.

"We need to be able to identify people who have the virus and ensure it doesn't result in community transmission.

"There's still some way to go on that and the government must make it a top priority."