Mass testing is poised to be rolled out across nearly one hundred different Tier 3 areas in England once the nationwide lockdown ends on 2 December. Liverpool’s pilot scheme is being used to justify this next phase of the £100 billion testing project, Operation Moonshot, but the results of the city’s experiment are messy and inconclusive.

In mid-October, Liverpool was one of the worst affected Covid hotspots in Europe with an infection rate four times greater than the national average. To combat the spike, the city was singled out as a guinea pig for a mass testing experiment. The scheme launched on 6 November with the aim of reducing infection rates by detecting asymptomatic cases early. Anyone living or working in Liverpool could get a test. Some 2,000 soldiers were drafted in to set up dozens of testing sites in council buildings, schools, community centres and Anfield Stadium.

Now, three weeks later, cases have fallen dramatically from their October peak, so much so that Boris Johnson labelled the city as “a success story which we want other parts of the country to replicate.”