Rapid Covid-19 tests offered to everyone twice weekly
Everyone in England will have access to a free and rapid coronavirus test twice a week from Friday, the Government has announced.
The lateral flow tests – which can provide results in around 30 minutes – will be available to anyone, regardless of whether they are showing Covid-19 symptoms.
Rapid testing has so far been available to those most at risk and people who need to leave home for work, including frontline NHS workers.
The wider rollout aims to help the Government identify and control new coronavirus variants, and comes as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased across the UK.
People will be able to obtain a test through a home ordering service, workplace or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.
A new “pharmacy collect” service is also being launched, which will provide an additional route to regular testing.
Those aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of seven rapid tests to use twice a week at home.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rollout will help stop Covid-19 outbreaks “in their tracks”.
He said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our road map to cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
The NHS Covid-19 app is also due to be updated from April 8, with everyone in a group now required to check-in when entering a hospitality venue, rather than just one person.
The app will also require users who test positive to share their venue history in a “privacy-protecting way” via the program, the Government said.
Those who have been at a venue on the same day as several others who have since tested positive for Covid-19 will receive an alert advising them to book a test immediately, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Around one in three people who have Covid-19 show no symptoms, and as we reopen society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks.
“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.
“The British public have shown over the last year that they quickly adapt and always do what is right in the interest of public health, and I know they will do their bit by getting tested regularly in the months ahead.”
More than 120,000 positive cases have already been identified through the use of lateral flow testing.
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