Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announces plans for the mass rollout of rapid Covid-19 testing for people who cannot work at home during the lockdown.
In an article for The Mail on Sunday, Mr Hancock says that while the vaccines represent the ‘cavalry’ in the battle, the ratcheting up of testing was an ‘important weapon in our fight against the virus’.
More than two million new ‘lateral flow’ tests, produced by the British company SureScreen Diagnostics, will be made available to all parts of England from this week.
The aim of the new tests, which give results within 30 minutes, is to catch the ‘silent spreaders’ – the estimated one in three people who do not have any symptoms when they have the virus and so are unaware that they are infectious.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock today announces plans for the mass rollout of rapid Covid-19 testing for people who cannot work at home during the lockdown
Barely one in three of the 317 English local authorities offers testing in the community for people who do not display symptoms. Testing is mainly directed at critical workers such as NHS staff.
Under the new plan, the test will be offered to all local authorities in England, and they will urged to make it available for anyone who has to leave home to work.
The Government is also working closely with the Welsh and Scottish administrations to make the tests available.
The Army is expected to assist with the beefed-up programme, as it is already with vaccinations.
Mr Hancock says that the approach promises to bring down the R number – the rate at which the virus reproduces – by up to 0.6, ‘helping break chains of transmission and save lives’.
In his article, Mr Hancock says: ‘We must use this lockdown to stop cases from rising by finding as many of those who have the disease, and insisting on total isolation.
‘And we will be targeting this testing programme at those who cannot work from home and who have to leave home during lockdown, providing them with another layer of protection and helping us to drive down the spread of the virus’.
More than two million new ‘lateral flow’ tests, produced by the British company SureScreen Diagnostics, will be made available to all parts of England from this weekInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The Health Secretary, who took one of the tests in his office on Friday – and was found to be Covid negative – adds: ‘If we do this, then we know that 2021 will be a year of recovery, and a year when this nation gets back on its feet once more’.
The prospect of regular mass testing has led to fears among civil liberties campaigners that people could be prevented by the authorities from undertaking essential journeys unless they can produce documentation proving that they have tested negative – or that they have a so-called ‘immunity passport’ in the form of either a vaccination certificate or proof of antibodies from a Covid infection, which protect against the disease.
However, a Department of Health source said that there were no plans to use the testing plan for this purpose.
The source said: ‘We want local authorities to be targeting the testing at people unable to work from home during lockdown. They can request military support if they feel they need it.’
SureScreen, based in Derby, says it will deliver two million lateral flow tests by Friday, but believes that it could deliver more than ten times this number over the next few months.
Baroness Dido Harding, the interim executive chairman of the National Institute for Health Protection, said: ‘Lateral flow tests are playing an ever-increasing role in our testing programme as we continue to expand testing to find positive cases amongst those without symptoms.
‘Having a British manufacturer provides greater certainty that we will be able to continue to grow our supply.’MATT HANCOCK: Quick, easy and a vital tool to help us get back to normal