Everyone in England will be offered free coronavirus tests twice a week starting Friday, the UK government announced in a statement on Monday.
The new testing regime is part of the government’s plan to reopen the economy in a way that would not lead to a spike in cases.
Rapid testing is currently only available to those most at risk and for people who need to leave home for work — including frontline health care workers, care home staff and residents, schoolchildren and their families.
Starting Friday, everyone, including people not showing any symptoms, will be able to access a free test.
The tests will be available through a home delivery service, at test centers, workplaces and schools, the statement added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine program and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.
The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the statement that testing is crucial because “around one-in-three people who have Covid-19 show no symptoms.”
“As we reopen society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks,” he added.
Johnson is set to outline plans for further lockdown easing later today. These are expected to include some form of “Covid-certification” for mass events and a new “traffic-light” system for international travel which is currently scheduled to resume from May 17.
As part of that plan, those arriving from “green” countries will not have to isolate, while those from “red” or “amber” nations will be required to follow mandatory quarantine measures.