Asymptomatic testing rollout targeted at people unable to work from home

PA

Thousands of rapid turnaround coronavirus tests are being handed out to businesses to test workers without symptoms.

The Government announced a rollout of rapid testing in industries including food, manufacturing, energy and retail sectors, as well as job centres, transport networks and the military.

Around 734,600 lateral flow tests, which can give results in less than 30 minutes, have been distributed across the public and private sector so far.

Organisations signed up to workplace testing include Royal Mail, sugar giant Tate & Lyle, energy supplier Octopus Energy and DVLA.

Last month, more than 350 cases of Covid-19 had been identified among workers at the DVLA offices in Swansea, but a spokesman said cases have since gone down to zero and workplace testing has been in place “for a couple of weeks”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “By offering rapid testing in the workplace, we are offering additional peace of mind to those who are unable to work from home during the current lockdown.

“Lateral flow tests have already been hugely successful in finding positive cases we would not otherwise find and I encourage employers and workers to take this offer up to help protect essential services and businesses.”

Additionally, community-based testing is being rolled out to all local authorities in England, with councils being encouraged to target testing to people who are unable to work from home.

Some 156 local authorities have set up community testing programmes so far, with more than seven million tests delivered to participating areas.

Coronavirus graphic
Coronavirus graphic

The Government is also making millions of rapid test kits available to the NHS, care home staff, primary care such as GPs, schools, colleges and universities.

Around 17 million tests have been approved for use at GP surgeries, pharmacies, dental practices and opticians, of which 7.5 million have been distributed.

Meanwhile, more than 25 million tests have been provided to NHS staff so far for home testing twice a week.

Lateral flow tests have drawn criticisms from some experts who questioned their accuracy, with vocal critic Jon Deeks, professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, previously arguing people should not be told that lateral flow tests are “better than they are”.

However, in a study published this week, researchers at Oxford University said rapid tests could be effective in quickly detecting the most infectious cases in a relatively cheap way.

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