WITH around one in three people with coronavirus not displaying symptoms, Covid-19 can quickly spread in our communities undetected.

You can still pass the virus on to others, even if you don’t have symptoms, so it is important we identify as many cases as possible, then we self-isolate and so ultimately we break these chains of transmission.

Quickly identifying cases and breaking chains of transmission is how we can reduce the impact of this deadly virus.

As our knowledge of the virus has evolved, we have rapidly expanded our testing capacity to more than 800,000 tests per day, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and lateral flow devices (LFDs) as well as other technologies, and we have developed innovative technology to offer different types of tests for different purposes.

LFDs can detect cases with high levels of virus, making them effective in finding individuals who are the most likely to transmit the disease at the point they are tested, including those not showing symptoms.

With results available in around 30 minutes, without the need for a laboratory, these devices can quickly find cases which would not otherwise have been found.

On their own, these tests are not a silver bullet for stopping the spread of the virus and it is still crucial that people comply with the current lockdown measures, including those people who receive a negative test result.

But what they do is offer a rapid testing for workplaces whose employees are not able to work from home.

LFDs used by the Government go through a rigorous evaluation by the country’s leading scientists. Rapid testing of NHS workforce and pilots in workplaces across the country, including at Heathrow airport and the food manufacturing company Moy Park in Northern Ireland, are keeping national infrastructure up and running.

The Government has offered rapid asymptomatic testing to every local authority. During this national lockdown, councils are encouraged to target testing at people who are unable to work from home and who are keeping our essential services open. This offers a layer of support for those who absolutely cannot work from home.

For example, in Darlington, the local council has delivered more than 12,500 asymptomatic tests since mid-December through a network of six asymptomatic testing sites.

Staffing these sites are volunteers and existing staff, many of whom have redeployed from leisure venues such as the Darlington Hippodrome theatre and the Dolphin Centre leisure centre.

Testing allocation is focused on harder-to-reach groups and those who cannot work from home, particularly factory and distribution workers. To find out more about community rapid testing in your area, visit your local authority’s website.

Asymptomatic testing using LFDs is just one tool that the Government is using to combat Covid-19. We are at a crucial point in controlling the pandemic, so sticking to the guidance has never been more important.

L Dr Aidan Fowler is the National Director of Patient Safety in England and a Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Social Care. Since March 2020, he has been on secondment to the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty