A Government-backed rapid testing programme for Covid has begun in Chippenham.

It is a partnership operation between Siemens Mobility and NHS Test and Trace at the company’s Pew Hill facility.

Around one in three people who are infected with Covid have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it.

Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.

Lockeridge-based health minister Lord James Bethell said: “We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter Covid, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Rapid testing technologies hold the key to the next phase of our ambition to see testing available to people across the country.

“I’m delighted that Siemens Mobility is working with us to use the latest technology in Chippenham and I look forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, both in helping target the virus locally, and helping find ways to roll this technology out further soon.”

Siemens Mobility has begun rapid testing using lateral flow tests, provided by NHS Test and Trace, as part of a programme to enable testing in private industries.

This will enable up to 120 personnel based at the Chippenham site, who manufacture rail infrastructure, to benefit from regular testing with rapid results to help prevent the spread of infection.

“It’s important that Siemens Mobility can play its part in finding cases in order to defeat Covid and support our local community to be safer,” said Rob Morris, Managing Director Rail Infrastructure at Siemens Mobility Limited.

“The introduction of regular testing, with almost instant results, helps to protect those at high risk and prevent the spread of infection, as well as provide our employees with peace of mind.”

Tests detect cases with high levels of virus, making them effective in finding infectious individuals who aren’t showing any symptoms and are the most likely to transmit the disease.

“Around one in three people with COVID-19 don’t display symptoms, meaning you can infect others unknowingly.

“I am incredibly proud of the speed at which we have been able to roll out these initiatives to protect more people more quickly,” said Baroness Dido Harding, the Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection.

“This rapid testing programme with Siemens Mobility is one of many that will inform our understanding of how rapid asymptomatic testing can be operationalised in the real world to protect those at high risk, find the virus and help us go back to as normal a way of life as possible.”