- Community testing offer to be expanded across all local authorities in England to test people without symptoms
- Local authorities will be encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during lockdown
- Around 1 in 3 people have COVID 19 without displaying any symptoms
Asymptomatic coronavirus testing will be rolled out across the country from next week.
People without Covid-19 symptoms and who cannot work from home are to be prioritised for quick turnaround tests made available to every local authority.
The Department of Health and Social Care said expanding the Community Testing Programme to more people without symptoms was “crucial given that around one in three people” who contract Covid-19 show no symptoms.
It said regular community testing using the rapid tests had already identified more than 14,800 positive Covid-19 cases.
The Government said the latest expansion of the testing programme builds on the millions of asymptomatic critical workers being tested every week, such as NHS patient facing staff and care home staff.
Existing plans for the rapid testing of staff and students in secondary schools and colleges, and staff in primary schools, also remain in place. Secondary schools have set up testing sites and have started to test staff and pupils who remain in school, such as the children of critical workers, or vulnerable children.
Primary schools will start to receive their test kits shortly for the weekly testing of their staff.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With roughly a third of people who have coronavirus not showing symptoms, targeted asymptomatic testing and subsequent isolation is highly effective in breaking chains of transmission.
“Rapid, regular testing is led by local authorities who design programmes based on their in-depth knowledge of the local populations, so testing can have the greatest impact.
“We are now expanding this offer to every local authority across the country, and asking testing to be targeted on workers who cannot work from home during this national lockdown, while asking employers to work with us to scale up workforce testing.
“Lateral flow tests have already been hugely successful in finding positive cases quickly – and every positive case found is helping to stop the spread – so I encourage employers and workers to take this offer up. We must all do all we can to stop the spread of COVID, right now.”