Key workers to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week

Key workers are to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week in bid to ‘break the chain’ of people passing on the virus without knowing they have it

  • Key workers unable to work from home will be eligible for two Covid tests a week
  • Lateral flow tests will become a key way to avoid current lockdown tightening 
  • Councils and employers will be invited to carry out tests and identify workers

All key workers unable to work from home in England will be eligible for a test twice a week to try to ‘break the chain’ of coronavirus transmission by asymptomatic carriers.

The announcement yesterday by Matt Hancock will make lateral flow tests – which take 30 minutes to get a result – a key way to avoid tightening the lockdown.

Two million of the tests will be supplied by SureScreen Diagnostics, of Derby, with the first million to be delivered by the end of this week.

All key workers unable to work from home will be tested twice a week to ‘break the chain’ of transmission 

Councils and employers will be invited to carry out the tests and to identify eligible workers, with an aim of identifying asymptomatic spreaders. Around one in three people infected with the virus show none of the symptoms such as a dry cough, loss of taste, or high temperature.

So far around 14,800 asymptomatic cases have been identified in the community testing programme currently run by 131 councils. The plan is now for the scheme to be expanded to cover all 317 English local authorities.

Around one third of the UK workforce are key workers – totalling 10.61million people – and include food manufacturers, warehouse employees and healthcare staff.

Mr Hancock, the Health Secretary, said yesterday: ‘I am thrilled to announce that testing for those who do not have symptoms will be available to every local authority in England.’ He added that he was working closely with the devolved administrations ‘so every corner of the UK can benefit from this life-saving work’.

Matt Hancock will make lateral flow tests a key way to avoid tightening the lockdown

Covid-19 has spread most rapidly in London and the South East according to the Office for National Statistics. Key workers have been calculated to have around 29 daily contacts with other people, seven times as many as someone working from home. Just one in six key workers is able to work from home.

Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said current measures might have to be tightened if there is evidence they are not working against the virus.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We’re in a situation where everything that was risky in the past is now more risky.

‘Whether the current restrictions are enough, I think it remains to be seen. It will be a week or two before it becomes clear. If there’s any sign that they’re not, then we’re going to have to be even stricter.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘This programme is crucial given that around one in three people have coronavirus without displaying any symptoms. The single most important action we can all take to protect the NHS and save lives is to stay at home.’

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