The leader of one of the London authorities named to take place in the mass roll-out of rapid coronavirus testing says they’re in “no position to implement” the programme without further support from the government.

Greenwich Council’s Dan Thorpe said the authority currently didn’t have the staff resources to implement the scheme and took aim at the government’s communication with local authorities, saying the announcement that Greenwich would be involved in the scheme was “certainly news” to those at town hall.

“Whilst I totally get (health secretary) Matt Hancock is in need of some good news headlines, and we are determined to help roll out mass testing, not all is as set out,” Cllr Thorpe tweeted on Wednesday, the day after Greenwich was named as one of the 67 authorities to be included in the England-wide programme to roll-out the lateral flow tests, which can give results in as little as 15 minutes. 

“The notion that 600,000 lateral flow tests are being issued to us is certainly news,” Cllr Thorpe said. 

“In discussions about the pilot, we are absolutely clear that we need the resources to manage this. In Liverpool, the Army are doing a great job and we would happily welcome them to Greenwich. But giving out 10,000 tests with no people isn’t going to work.”

“We are yet to have any confirmation from the Department of Health and Social Care about the resources that will support this. And whilst I’m absolutely determined to do our bit, we simply cannot do this alone. I sincerely hope communication improves and we see real details that answer our questions, not just PR.

“But to be clear, we do not have these tests available now here in Greenwich and will not be in any position to implement a system unless our questions are answered.”

Cllr Thorpe added council leaders have now been asked to go to a webinar on Friday where they’re set to receive more details.

Greenwich Council’s press team was contacted on Tuesday for additional comment.

Mr Hancock said on Tuesday the mass roll-out would help the UK-wide effort to strengthen track and trace measures, as well as picking up asymptomatic cases which would have otherwise gone undetected.

Fellow south-east London councils Bromley, Lewisham and Bexley are also set to be involved in the roll-out of the ultra-fast testing, which has been implemented in Covid-struck Liverpool over the last week,

A spokesperson for the Tory-run Bexley Council said the authority was looking forward to discussions on how the testing regime would be implemented, suggesting those conversations are yet to be had.

“We welcome the fact that we will be able to give our residents access to these rapid lateral flow coronavirus tests as part of the government’s pilot programme,” the spokesperson said.

“We look forward to being involved in the discussions about how the tests will be rolled out.”