Rapid £5 covid tests could lead to ‘freedom passes’ for those who test negative

12 November 2020, 07:58 | Updated: 12 November 2020, 08:21

Nearly 200 million rapid response tests could be rolled out in England between January and March
Nearly 200 million rapid response tests could be rolled out in England between January and March. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The government will buy 200 million coronavirus rapid response tests that will give those with negative results a "freedom pass" to attend sporting events and concerts, according to reports.

Leaked documents seen by The Telegraph have revealed that ministers will secure more than 60 million of the tests per month from January, with 192 being bought by March.

The £5 kits give a 'yes' or 'no' result in just 15 minutes with medical experts suggesting they could give people a "freedom pass" out of mass restrictions and help to reopen the country.

Contracts for the tests, which can detect three in four Covid-19 infections or 95 per cent of those with a high viral load, will be awarded in December.

Anyone who tests negative could receive a "day pass" to enjoy normal social interactions such as going to the cinema, visiting sporting events or heading to a concert.

Read more: Rapid £10 Covid 'bubble test' launched for groups of up to 10 people

Explained: Which areas in England will get rapid turnaround mass testing support?

Which areas will benefit from Covid rapid testing?

Their acquisition forms part of the government's Operation Moonshot plan which could see them rolled out for mass testing in cities across the country.

The Telegraph report says they could be used to test the 10 per cent of the population at greatest risk from coronavirus on a weekly basis, according to the leaked documents.

It comes after the government announced this week that 67 towns and cities in England will be given access to 600,000 kits to test 10 per cent of their population on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, Public Health England and Oxford University studied the new "lateral flow tests" which were rolled out in Liverpool last week.

On Wednesday, ministers published the results which found the kits detected 77 per cent of those infected with the virus and 95 per cent of those with high viral loads. However, the success rate dropped significantly when people carried them out at home, with scientists recommending the public be taught how to use the kit.

Read more: Students in England to get coronavirus tests for Christmas at home

Read more: 600,000 rapid Covid tests to be sent to local authorities this week

University students in England could be tested for coronavirus from the end of November

They could play a "major role" in reopening the country and economy, with scientists saying nationwide use could cut infection rates by up to 90 per cent.

One expert told The Telegraph he would be "confident" standing in a crowd if everyone present had tested negative using the kit.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, said: "These inexpensive, easy-to-use tests can play a major role in our fight against Covid-19.

"They identify those who are likely to spread the disease and when used systematically in mass testing could reduce transmissions by 90 per cent.

"They will be detecting the disease in large numbers of people who have never previously even received a test.”

Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at NHS Test and Trace, said such tests "are proving to be accurate and reliable".

She added: "And, importantly, they're able to detect Covid-19 in people without symptoms who could unknowingly be passing the virus on to others."

Brigadier Joe Fossey visually explains streamlined Covid testing methods

It comes after the UK passed the grim milestone of 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday.

A further 595 deaths were recorded yesterday taking the total in the UK to 50,365.

The majority of deaths were in England, with 478 reported in the last 24 hours - the highest daily number since early May.

There were a further 64 deaths reported in Scotland, 45 in Wales and 8 in Northern Ireland.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths when Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with deaths reported in recent days, show there have now been 65,000 deaths involving coronavirus in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 22,950 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, taking the total tally to 1,256,725.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify