PLANS are gathering pace to roll out rapid coronavirus testing across St Helens, with St Mary’s Market being eyed as a potential site.

St Helens Brough Council was instructed by the government last month to start preparing for a mass testing programme, following the launch of a military-backed pilot in Liverpool.

However, an expansion of the programme was thrown into doubt last week after the government announced that the Liverpool City Region would be moving into Tier 2 restrictions.

READ > Mass coronavirus testing looks unlikely to be coming to St Helens

And earlier this week, General Sir Gordon Messenger, head of operations for the programme, said widespread military support like that seen in Liverpool would be “simply undeliverable”.

He was speaking at a press conference in Downing Street as the government discussed plans to expand ‘community testing’ using the rapid turnaround lateral flow tests used in the Liverpool pilot.

Lateral flow tests can be processed on site without the need for laboratory equipment, with most generating results in within 30 minutes.

Question marks have been raised over their accuracy, however, a recent study from Oxford University said the tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community.

Locally, St Helens Borough Council is planning to launch a series of testing sites to use the rapid turnaround tests, specifically to pinpoint those who have the virus but do not have any symptoms.

Willowbrook Hospice will be first to use the new testing system, which will target staff and volunteers.

Staff and volunteers who work at the hospice across all of its buildings, who do not have any symptoms of Covid-19, will be tested weekly under the plans.

Chris Haywood, clinical director at Willowbrook Hospice, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this very important initiative.

“We believe it’s imperative that our staff and volunteers take up the opportunity of a self-testing swab as it provides a quick and easy way to know if they do in fact have Covid-19 even though they may not have any symptoms.

“This will mean we can isolate infected people more quickly and ensure we keep our residents safe and our essential Hospice services running.

“This is a huge benefit to our patients, families, colleagues and those who they come in to contact with outside of work.”

St Helens Borough Council confirmed there are plans to roll out more tests to targeted areas, such as workplaces and schools, alongside wider general community testing.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that St Mary’s Market is being looked at as a potential site for mass community testing.

A St Helens Borough Council spokesman said they could not confirm if this was true.

A number of mobile sites are also being considered, according to a council source.

Once available to the community, the lateral flow tests will simply require a quick swab applied to the nose and mouth

The results will then be sent via text or email, in most cases within 30 minutes.

If someone tests positive they must isolate at home and will then be sent an additional test to complete to confirm the Covid-19 case.

St Helens Star: St Mary's Market is being considered as a potential site for a community testing site St Mary's Market is being considered as a potential site for a community testing site

Today, as the national lockdown ends and we move into Tier 2 restrictions amid falling infection rates across the region, public health chiefs are urging the public to not to get complacent.

Cllr Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public heath, leisure, libraries and heritage, said: “There has been a real community effort to help get our rates to reduce in St Helens Borough which has been successful and helped us to move down to Tier 2 when national restrictions are lifted.

“But we cannot be complacent and need to continue to follow the guidance of washing hand regularly, wearing face masks and making space for others while also limiting our contacts with others to reduce the spread.

“The other way to tackling infection is by finding those who do not have any symptoms but still carry the virus. We are working hard to provide people who live or work in our borough with the chance to have these 30-minute tests through drop-in test centres just for those without symptoms.

“This will help to drive down rates even further there as it aims to find people who may otherwise have been spreading Covid-19 to people they came into contact with, unaware they were infectious.

READ > Totally Wicked Stadium earmarked for mass Covid vaccinations

“As we roll this opportunity out, we will really do need your support as the more people we test the quicker we can isolate cases and reduce the spread so that we can all play our part in keeping cases low, keeping us in Tier 2 for Christmas.”

Anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms – a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of sense of taste or smell – should arrange for a Covid-19 test to be carried out by booking online at or by calling 119.

They are advised not to use the 30-minute lateral flow test.