The UK government has announced that everyone will have access to free COVID-19 testing kits from Friday, 9 April 2021.
The new mass testing programme will be aimed at detecting asymptomatic cases and finding new variants.
The rapid testing kits will be able to be delivered to people at home, or through a new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service, which will see people take seven tests home and use them twice a week.
Rapid Lateral Flow tests have been available to large business for some months to test employees. But a new campaign will see the government encourage as many people as possible to get tested.
One in three people suffer no symptoms from COVID-19 and increased testing will boost the chances of catching asymptomatic people before they spread the virus in the wider community.
Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to ‘normal’ hinges on us all getting tested regularly.
“The British public have shown over the last year that they quickly adapt and always do what is right in the interest of public health, and I know they will do their bit by getting tested regularly in the months ahead.”
The news of population testing comes as the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed yesterday that “we see nothing in the present data that makes us think that we will have to deviate from that roadmap”, as first does vaccinations dip amid supply issues. However, the Moderna vaccine is due to be rolled out later this month.
Data analysis from NHS Test and Trace found that for every 1,000 tests carried out, there is less than one false positive in the data. Since rapid testing was scaled up, it is also estimated that 120,000 covid cases have been caught due to the implementation of rapid tests across the UK.
Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said: “Rapid testing helps us find COVID-19 cases that we would not otherwise know about, helping to break chains of transmission.
“These tests are effective in detecting people that are infectious and, therefore, most likely to transmit the infection to others. They are another tool we now must help maintain lower infection rates. I encourage everyone to take up the offer of these free rapid tests – they are quick and easy to carry out in your own home.”