Twice a week checks will ensure the vaccination campaign is ‘not wasted’, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Britons will soon have access to a twice-weekly COVID-19 test, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as the country contemplates a post-pandemic life.
Johnson said Monday the program will break the chain of transmission and help detect asymptomatic cases, which are believed to be responsible for one in three infections.
The mass testing plan, which goes into effect on Friday, will see lateral flow kits capable of delivering results in about 30 minutes made available, free of charge, at COVID-19 testing sites, pharmacies and via the post.
England is set to emerge from the lockdown next week, a move backed by the rapid rollout of vaccines.
“As we continue to make good progress on our immunization program and with our roadmap to carefully relax ongoing restrictions, regular rapid testing is even more important to ensure these efforts are not in vain,” Johnson said in a statement.
Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate with all other members of their household.
They can then order a follow-up PCR swab test, which is more accurate and used to officially confirm cases.
If a negative result is returned, the individual will be allowed to end their quarantine.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said mass testing would help officials “quickly detect positive cases and rule out any outbreaks.”
“The immunization program has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but recovering our lost freedoms and getting back to normal all depend on getting tested regularly,” he said.
Johnson plans to ease measures in the near future
Later Monday, Johnson will give a televised speech outlining his plans to revive international travel and reopen sections of the economy.
He is expected to confirm that all retail outlets, outdoor hospitality establishments and hairdressers will be able to reopen on April 12 in England.
A traffic light system for countries based on infection and vaccination levels is in place for international travel, which could resume by May 17. Holidays abroad are currently prohibited by law.
Johnson’s Conservative Party government will also be hosting several so-called vaccine passport trials in the coming weeks – including for the FA Cup final at Wembley Football Stadium in London – to see if passes can help secure mass gatherings in stadiums, nightclubs and concerts.
But critics, including dozens of lawmakers from Johnson’s own party, have warned certificates can turn out to be “divisive and discriminatory”.
Rapid vaccination program
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are on their own gradual path out of a strict lockdown that was imposed earlier this year.
These measures follow a vaccination campaign that delivered at least one dose of vaccine to more than 31.5 million people across the country – more than half of the adult population.
More than five million people have been fully inoculated with one of two vaccines currently in use – those developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.
With over 126,000 deaths, the UK has the fifth highest death toll in the world. The UK reported 10 deaths on Saturday – a record six-month low and a huge drop from peaks of over 1,000 during peak periods.
The vaccine rollout has raised hopes of a steady recovery this year, with Johnson seeking to gradually lift all restrictions in England by mid-June.