Twice weekly testing launched as England prepares for Monday lockdown easing

9 April 2021, 08:23

Twice weekly lateral flow tests are now available to anybody in England
Twice weekly lateral flow tests are now available to anybody in England. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Everyone in England is being encouraged to undergo voluntary twice-weekly Covid-19 testing.

The Government aims to encourage the public to "get into the habit" of ordering and using testing kits regularly as hospitality and leisure businesses reopen for the first time since January.

People can order the lateral flow tests to their homes, and they provide results in around 30 minutes.

Anybody can now access free rapid lateral flow tests (LFDs) for themselves and their household twice a week, with a major public information campaign set to launch on Friday evening explaining the changes.

Ministers have ordered an advertising blitz across TV, radio, newspapers, outdoor advertising and social media encouraging everybody to take part in the scheme, with the first TV ad airing on ITV at 7.15pm on Friday.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Around one in three people have coronavirus without any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is one of the simplest and easiest ways we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. I’d encourage everyone to take up the offer and test twice a week.

"Alongside the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, rapid testing will be one of our most effective weapons in tackling this virus and ensuring we can cautiously reopen our economy and parts of society that we have all missed.

"The British people have made a tremendous effort throughout the pandemic and I am confident they will do the same now by taking up this offer of free, rapid tests."

Mass testing programmes are also being carried out in schools and workplaces
Mass testing programmes are also being carried out in schools and workplaces. Picture: PA Images

The adverts will encourage people to fit testing into their morning routine, explain how LFD tests show results in under 30 minutes and will be, according to Government officials, crucial in allowing England to slowly return to somewhat normality after a year of tough restrictions.

The tests can be ordered online through a home ordering service, where people can have a pack of 7 LFDs sent to their home or ready to collect from a testing site with instructions on how to use them.

Many workplaces are also running their own testing schemes, as well as local authorities, schools and pharmacies across the country.

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From Sunday, the 'Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air' campaign will also change to remind the public to use the NHS Covid app to check in to businesses, including outdoor hospitality, hairdressers and gyms.

All members of a group will either have to check in using the app or leave contact details manually, and users who have been at a venue where multiple people later test positive will now be encouraged to book a test and monitoring their symptoms to further prevent asymptomatic transmission.

TV doctor and practising GP, Dr Zoe Williams said: "Twice weekly testing will be crucial in helping us manage the spread of the virus as society starts to reopen.

"The tests are quick and easy to do, and results come back in 30 minutes. Key workers such as myself and my colleagues have been carrying these out for the last few months, and it’s amazing how quickly they have become second nature to us.

"However, it’s important to remember that there is not one silver bullet in the fight against Covid-19, and even with a negative test result, we must still follow social distancing guidelines – hands, face, space, fresh air, and go for our vaccines when called."

People will need to register their results online or call 119, with the usual requirement to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus. People who test positive will also be asked to book a PCR test to double check.

There have been concerns over the accuracy of lateral flow tests, with recent Test and Trace data shows there has been fewer than one false positive for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out.