As the first of 2,000 troops from Britain's armed services arrived in Liverpool Thursday to prepare for the country's first mass testing project for COVID-19, the Liverpudlians are urged to set an example for the rest of the country.
Noting that Liverpool had reportedly lost more than 600 lives to the virus since March, Matt Ashton, the city's director of Public Health, said one of the challenges with COVID-19 was not everybody who has it displays symptoms, even though they are spreading it to others.
"There are national estimates that say out of everyone who has the virus, between 75 percent and 80 percent could be asymptomatic, with no symptoms," he said in a blog published on the Liverpool Express website.
Ashton urged the 450,000 residents in Liverpool to participate in the mass testing so that the city can set an example for the rest of the country and beyond.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has described the mass testing program as a "game changer" for the city and should help the city get back to normal as quickly as possible.
He said the pilot scheme in the city will provide a huge opportunity to bring down infection rates before the potential easing of the national lockdown on Dec. 2, second of its kind since the start of the pandemic in the country.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson selected Liverpool as a pilot area for mass testing just weeks after the city became the first in Britain to be placed in the top tier of three-levels of localized lockdown restrictions.
Despite a reduction in cases over the last couple of weeks, Liverpool still has one of the highest infection rates in the country.
Around 85 new coronavirus testing stations are being opened across Liverpool, mostly manned by British troops, to start mass testing from Friday, with earlier testing underway at patients already in hospitals across the city.
Dozens of the testing stations will be mobile ones, able to move quickly to different suburbs of the northern England port city. The mobile stations will be based in areas of Liverpool known to be COVID-19 hotspots.
With daily cases and deaths still rising nationally, the eyes of the country will focus on Liverpool to see how testing of everybody, not just those with symptoms, will have on the fight against the virus.
One of the first eager to join the queue to be tested was Colin Sinclair, businessman and CEO of Liverpool's emerging Knowledge Quarter being built close to the city's main hospital.
"I'm really looking forward to getting a test on Friday not only to protect our National Health Service," Sinclair said in a video published by Liverpool's city council. "I want to do my part to help our businesses get up and running again in Liverpool and get our restaurants and shops open for Christmas."
China has showed to the world that mass testing and tracing is part of the efforts that proved effective to bring the pandemic under controls.
In recent months, smaller-scale clusters of cases have been discovered at different times in Beijing, Xinjiang, and Dalian respectively. Efforts to tackle a resurgence have proven effective, which include quarantines, disinfection, contact tracing, targeted lockdowns, and citywide mass testing campaigns.
Liverpool resident Dave Toller welcomed the idea of mass testing in his home city but said he fears many people will not cooperate with it.
Retired IT specialist Toller and his wife Leslie are both volunteers in a COVID-19 household monitoring survey, having weekly tests.
"We were quite shocked in the early tests when my wife tested positive for coronavirus. We are now 11 weeks into a 12-week program and I never tested positive. Thankfully we are both OK," Toller told Xinhua.
His wife recovered at home, but the couple had to go into home quarantine.
Toller said testing was a good idea, but he had some reservations.
"I have been following social media and there are many people saying they will not take part in this mass exercise. It will be interesting to see how many people do come forward to be tested," he said.
Liverpool city region resident Janet Haycock, a mother of four, told Xinhua: "I have relatives and friends living in the city and there are mixed feelings about mass testing. Some are OK with it, but others are worried that if they test positive they will be isolated and unable to work."
"It's a difficult question, but I hope common sense will prevail. The more people who do get tested, the sooner we can escape from this terrible virus," she added.
On social media sites, there was also a mixed reaction with some people messaging they would not support mass testing and concerns remain that people may continue to flout rules despite the lockdown.
Liverpool hit the headlines Thursday with grim images of mainly young people crowding downtown streets to enjoy drink-fuelled parties ahead of the lockdown.
Overnight local media in Liverpool reported how restaurants and the bars that remained opened were crowded as people enjoyed a final meal out ahead of the city joining the rest of England in a government-imposed national lockdown from Thursday.