Northumberland County Council is setting up a targeted community testing programme as another tool to bring coronavirus back under control.
Around one in three people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic and could be spreading the virus without knowing.
Regularly testing those who are at greatest risk of contracting and spreading the virus will increase the likelihood of quickly identifying cases which would otherwise go undetected, helping to reduce the risk of transmission.
Testing is on an invite only basis initially and will be aimed at frontline critical key workers within Northumberland County Council, who are in regular face-to-face contact with the public.
Over the coming weeks the testing will be expanded to other key workers who cannot work from home and some other groups.
Testing staff have been trained and testing sites are opening at leisure centres in Ashington, Alnwick and Hexham. Those who are being invited to participate in the scheme will be notified and will be expected to undertake at least one test a week for a six-week period.
Liz Morgan, director of Public Health at Northumberland County Council said: “Along with track and trace and the roll out of the vaccine, this rapid turnaround testing for key workers will provide us with another tool to identify individuals who may pass infection on to other people.
“Quite a few people may not be showing symptoms but could be unwittingly carrying and spreading the virus. This testing programme will help identify these hidden infections and help to break the chain of infection.”
Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) will be used which deliver the results within an hour, and while, like many tests, they are not 100% accurate, they will help identify cases that otherwise would have gone undetected.
Anyone testing positive must isolate at home immediately along with any close contacts.
Cllr Richard Dodd, cabinet member with responsibility for public health, said: “This is a very targeted exercise that will help to look after staff and all the people they are in contact with during the course of their work.
"It will bring more confidence, and allow us to catch cases quickly, as well as helping to keep vital services running that this county depends on.”