Lincolnshire received 20,000 lateral flow (rapid) tests for mass or community testing along with protective and IT equipment, local health bosses confirmed.
The county can get tests for up to 10% of the population (around 75,000 kits) but it doesn’t yet have the capacity or staff to do so.
Professor Derek Ward, Director of Public Health at Lincolnshire County Council, said the current allocation was “plenty for the short term”.
His team will look at where to focus the testing at an outbreak management board meeting next week.
These include “specific geographies, or population groups where we’re seeing a lot of cases and we don’t know why,” he said.
“So that might be a very small group of streets where we’re seeing lots of positives, but we don’t understand and we’d want to get in there […] and test [everyone] to see if any of them are asymptomatic.”
Other locations include “high consequence” settings such as children’s care homes, emergency services such as fire and rescue teams, and health and care settings.
Professor Ward, however, said the delivery would depend on capacity.
“We’ve got a finite number of nurses and a lot of the time those are helping with care home outbreaks,” but he added that if infection rates came down, those nurses could be redeployed.
People can also do the tests themselves.
Professor Ward also welcomed the vaccine news this week, but warned that initially they will be stored through United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust for now, because it is the only place with cold enough storage for the Pfizer Biotech vaccine (at -70℃).
He said further details were still expected on how mobile the vaccine can be delivered, though it’s hoped the upcoming Oxford vaccine would be easier to move around and supply to, for instance, GP practices and pharmacists.
“It’s really important that we don’t waste them, so if we’ve got vaccines in the hospital, it should be used first to vaccinate our hospital staff and people in hospital and then, when we can move it around, we start to vaccinate our residents.”
Professor Ward said now is the time to double down on following guidelines during the “tough winter” while the vaccine is handed out.
Yet health bosses are currently concerned about infection rates at a district level. They said lower population numbers can mean small outbreaks will have a dramatic effect and those outbreaks can remain on the books for a long time while as people self-isolate.
But their own numbers, are were more up to date than the public government dashboard, also show lower figures.
Care home outbreaks from 10 days ago are still on Boston’s figures for instance, similar with Lincoln — which will mean those districts could drop again next week if no further outbreaks occur.
There were 486 new coronavirus cases and 18 COVID-related deaths in Greater Lincolnshire on Thursday.
Boston has the second highest infection rate in the county with 547.2 cases per 100,000 of the population, a large spike since Wednesday’s rate of 501.6.
Lincoln came in ninth in the country with an increase from 371.6 Wednesday, to 385.7 Thursday.
Professor Ward said the general trend at a county level is still downwards, but not decreasing as quickly as it went up.
“Let’s not throw it away over the next few weeks and over Christmas. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing, rollout the vaccine, get better testing models and it could work.
“I know our figures are coming down quite quickly now, which is great, so it’s all good news, but it could all change if we if we throw it away — so let’s stick with our messages.”
He added that deaths will remain high until at least next week because of the lag from the latest peak of the virus in terms of those worst affected.