Everyone in England will be able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus testing from April 9, the Government has announced.
Rapid testing has so far been available to those most at risk and people who need to leave home for work, including frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents, and schoolchildren and their families.
Now rapid testing will be offered to everyone, with people encouraged to take regular tests to help prevent outbreaks and reclaim a more normal way of life.
One in 3 people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus unwittingly. Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately.
Since rapid testing was introduced, over 120,000 positive cases that would not have been found otherwise have been identified by LFDs.
The government says that alongside the rollout of the vaccine, regular testing is going to be an essential part of the easing of restrictions as it will help quickly suppress the spread of variants.
Updates will be made to the NHS COVID-19 app in England to coincide with the offer of rapid testing for everyone.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.
“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
Getting a rapid test
The expanded regular testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered through:
- a home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home
- workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
- community testing, offered by all local authorities
- collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
- testing on-site at schools and colleges
A new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service is also launching which will provide an additional route to regular testing. People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home.
The best route for testing can be found at NHS.UK. If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online or by calling 119. They should self-isolate if positive and order a confirmatory PCR test.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or by calling 119.
Recent analysis from NHS Test and Trace says that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than 1 false positive result.