Southwark’s leader has welcomed mass testing to help detect asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 in the borough – but said the Government must support the council financially as it “not something we can absorb”. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed Southwark is one of 67 local authorities in England to be included in the roll out of the Government’s mass testing programme, following a pilot in Liverpool.  

Lambeth, Lewisham, Bromley, Bexley, and Greenwich are also on the list. 

The new lateral flow tests provide a result in less than an hour, and people need minimal training to use them – the Government said it is exploring self-administration in the future.  

Around 10,000 tests will be made available to each area to help them start testing priority groups, followed up with a weekly allocation. 

Mr Hancock said mass testing is a “vital tool” to help control the virus and “get life more normal”.  

Southwark’s leader, Councillor Kieron Williams, said the council is “waiting to hear the details” but “knows increased testing is essential to stop the spread of the virus and to help prevent the need for further lockdowns”. 

“So this looks like good news. I welcome the fact the Government have said they will work with local councils to do this, so we can use our local knowledge to ensure these tests are used effectively.    

“Delivering tens of thousands of tests will be a major operation, we’re ready to play our part, but we’ll need Government support too.   

“We are already facing an £11 million gap between the funding we’ve received for COVID and the costs we’ve incurred, so a roll out of this scale is not something we can absorb.  

“Hopefully that support will be forthcoming, so we can quickly get these tests up and running to help keep the virus at bay and our community safe,” he said.