Free twice-a-week Covid tests coming for all adults – even without symptoms

All adults in England will be encouraged to test themselves twice a week as free swab tests will be rolled out even to those without symptoms.

Boris Johnson said taking regular tests would be key to the continued easing of lockdown as he prepares to outline plans for the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown today.

From April 9, anyone will be able to access free, rapid lateral flow tests for themselves and their families to use twice a week.

The Prime Minister said: “Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus.

“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.”

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.

The PM will make further announcements at a No10 briefing today
The PM will make further announcements at a No10 briefing today

Mr Johnson is also expected to confirm the use of vaccine passports as part of plans to enable a return to mass gatherings and indoor events.

Covid certificates would be based on whether people have had the jab, a negative test, or can prove immunity with a recent antibody test.

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Work is said to be underway on producing digital proof of Covid status, such as an app, as well as a paper-based form for people without smartphones.

IT firm Netcompany, which has created a digital passport app for use in Denmark next month, is said to be working on the “technical architecture of a possible app” for the UK.

Ministers are hoping the scheme will help to reopen mass gatherings such as festivals, football matches and nightclubs.

However it is not expected to be used in initial pilots this month for events like the FA Cup semi-final and the Snooker World Championship, which will focus on testing.

Certificates will not be required in shops and on public transport, or in businesses due to reopen soon such as pubs and restaurants.

The plan will reportedly have a year-long limit as ministers seek to head off a backlash from MPs opposed to the plan.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has said the trials aimed to understand how to “manage and mitigate” the risks of coronavirus transmission.

The Snooker World Championships will be used to trial on-the-day testing for events
The Snooker World Championships will be used to trial on-the-day testing for events

“It is not just about certification. The earlier pilots almost certainly won’t involve any elements of certification but it will involve testing, making sure that people are tested before and after the events,” he said.

“What we will be looking at is the mitigation measures. So ventilation, one-way systems, hygiene measures, all of those kinds of things to help inform long-term decision-making.”

Mr Johnson is also expected to unveil a traffic-light system for international travel, after a Government probe into how to restart foreign trips.

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Travellers arriving from countries rated “green” will not be required to isolate – although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed, potentially running to hundreds of pounds.

Destinations classed as “amber” or “red” will mean Brits have to quarantine on return, either at home or in a Government-backed hotel.

Officials said it was still too early to predict which countries would be on which list and they continue to advise against booking summer holidays abroad.

Professor Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, said there are “still a lot of open questions” about the scheme.

She told BBC Breakfast: “There’s scientific questions, there’s logistical questions – how will it work – with an app or a paper version? – and there’s real ethical questions as well, too: do I have to pay for the testing if I haven’t been vaccinated or had that opportunity?”

Tory former cabinet minister David Davis described the idea as a “rather silly measure”, adding: “We are not used to presenting papers – or the electronic equivalent – to go to the pub or to go to a football match. That is not what we think of our freedoms.”

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said holidaymakers needed clarity on when they could book a getaway with confidence.

He said: ”Let’s not forget that countless holidaymakers lost money last year after being caught out while trying to follow the government’s travel corridor system.

“We mustn’t have a repeat of this fiasco, so we need a clear understanding of what the system will be and what the potential is for further disruption.”

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It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock could be hauled before the High Court to justify why non-essential shops are being allowed to reopen before pubs and restaurants.

Businessman Hugh Osmond and nightclubs operator Sacha Lord are bringing a legal challenge over the roadmap plan to allow shops to reopen after April 12 but leave indoor hospitality shuttered until mid-May, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

Plans for the next stage of the roadmap, which includes reopening outdoor hospitality, hairdressers and non-essential shops, will be discussed by the PM’s top team today before a press conference later.



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