COVID-19: Liverpool councillors go door to door encouraging people to get tested

In a global pandemic, it doesn’t get much more local than this. 

Abdul Qadir, Nathalie Nicholas and Calvin Smeda are Liverpool City Councillors.

Today, we followed them as they went street by street, door by door, trying to encourage people living in their ward to go and get a COVID-19 test.

“People will say ‘I don’t have any symptoms’,” Cllr Nicholas tells me, “and it is about trying to get those people earlier so there is a better chance of them being treated and not spreading it to their families and communities.”

This part of Liverpool, called Picton, has one of the highest COVID-19 rates.

But it also has one of the lower uptakes of the city’s mass testing programme, which offers a free test to individuals even without symptoms.

“40% of the residents of this ward are from ethnic minorities,” Cllr Nicholas says, “and we know people from a BAME background are disproportionately affected by COVID.”

The councillors knock on dozens of doors.

Sometimes they don’t get a very warm welcome.

“Yeah, some people are a bit miffed, and don’t understand what we’re doing,” Cllr Qadir says, “but the majority of reactions are positive and it’s just about getting the message across.”

Today, that message is about letting residents know they don’t have to go very far for tests.

Eight pop-up testing centres have been set up nearby, in community centres and places of worship.

It’s for this weekend only, part of the city’s “Super Weekend” effort to get case numbers down.

“You don’t have to make an appointment,” Cllr Smeda tells one man who opens the door to him, “you just go right on in, and it’s just down the road.”

“If you can, do take the opportunity to take a test while it’s there.”

Liverpool’s mass testing programme started three weeks ago and the use of rapid testing, which can deliver results in 30 minutes, means public health teams can track where cases are more accurately than ever.

“We’re getting live data now from the rapid testing part of the mass testing programme,” Cllr Qadir tells me, “so we can really target this testing. We’re doing these community test centres this weekend but there are even plans to go even more local and set up sites on individual streets.”

This way of getting people to take a test is labour-intensive.

But we saw it work.

Eugene Brown took his first test today, after one of the councillors knocked on his door.

“I’ve been feeling alright,” he tells me, “so I haven’t gone and got a test.”

“But after they knocked on my door and told me it’s just down the road, I thought ‘I’m not going to do nothing’.

“It doesn’t cost anything, and every little bit can help the public.”

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