FREE twice-weekly rapid lateral flow tests are now available for adults across England in a huge boost for our freedom.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed the tests as a route back to “normality” as lockdown restrictions continue to be relaxed.
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The scheme has launched today and people will be able to collect or order batches of their free Covid tests – which provide results in just minutes – whether they have symptoms or not.
So far the rapid kits have been mainly aimed at office staff and those who have to leave their homes to work, alongside the NHS and schools.
But now everyone can order kits at home, get them through their workplaces, at schools, or via the network of testing centres which has been set up across the country.
A pharmacy collect service will also be launched and High Street retailer Boots today said that 1,500 of its pharmacies would also be giving out free tests.
Commenting on the launch of the scheme today Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Around one in three people have coronavirus without any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is one of the simplest and easiest ways we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
“I’d encourage everyone to take up the offer and test twice a week.”
HOW TO GET A RAPID TEST
More than 100,000 businesses in England have registered their interest to provide rapid tests to their employees.
The offer of free testing is being expanded to companies with over 10 workers where on-site testing is impossible.
Here’s how to get your hands on a rapid test:
- A home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home
- Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
- Community testing, offered by all local authorities
- Collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
- Testing on-site at schools and colleges
He said that these tests, alongside the success rollout of the vaccine programme, would make for an “effective weapon” in tackling the virus.
He said: “The British people have made a tremendous effort throughout the pandemic and I am confident they will do the same now by taking up this offer of free, rapid tests.”
At a press conference this week Mr Johnson promised the kits would “stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy”.
The PM said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.
“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
As well as announcing the new scheme, Mr Johnson also revealed that the next stage of lockdown restrictions being lifted would go ahead on April 12.
This includes the reopening of gyms, outdoor hospitality and non-essential shops.
It is thought that the new testing drive will help keep people safe who are returning to work in public-facing roles.
Health Minister Edward Argar said he expected those returning to work to be among the first to use the lateral flow tests on offer.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I suspect in the first instance, a lot of them will be used by people who are starting to go back into their workplace again, as the economy starts opening up again, as pubs start opening for outside drinks and shops start opening again and as people start going back to their offices and businesses.
“So I suspect that will be a very large proportion of people who use these tests.”
The Conservative MP said the cost of supplying the quick-fire result tests to everyone in England would be met by the two-year £37 billion NHS Test and Trace budget.
Argar has defended the accuracy of lateral flow tests as the Government announced that everyone in England is to be offered free, twice-weekly coronavirus tests regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Argar said: “You’re right about the more people who are taking these tests the better because this is about trying to get people back to work, getting our society reopened, which we all want to see done as swiftly and safely as it can be done.
“These simple tests are a key part of doing that.
“In terms of the reliability of the tests, I think recent Test and Trace analysis around this suggests that out of 1,000 lateral flow tests, there was less than one false positive within those 1,000.
“So that is still a highly accurate test which can play a really important part in reopening our country and our businesses, because it is so simple to take.”
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Extra test and trace rules will also be rolled out next week to crack down on potential outbreaks as the nation unlocks further.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said of the tests news: “We’ve long called for mass testing for those with and without symptoms as a key element in tackling the spread of the virus.
“But to break transmission chains and suppress infections, testing must go hand-in-hand with community public health-led contact tracing to find cases and must be backed up by decent financial support so sick people can isolate.”