Eddie Mair 4pm - 6pm
Coronavirus tests rolled out to all key workers in England and their families
23 April 2020, 18:08
Key workers and their families will be able to get coronavirus tests from tomorrow, Matt Hancock has confirmed.
The Health Secretary announced a major expansion of England’s testing capabilities at today’s covid-19 press conference.
The announcement will mean millions more people would be eligible for testing from tomorrow, with any essential worker able to get tests by registering online on gov.uk.
People will then receive a text or email with an appointment at a drive-through centre or can request a home test kit, although the latter are currently in limited supply.
A help desk has been established to aid the process, while mobile units run by the Army are travelling around the country to where they are needed, such as care homes.
Key workers on the list are the same as those for access to schools, and include NHS and social care workers, police officers, teachers, social workers, those in the justice system, undertakers, some in local government, supermarket and food production workers, journalists, transport workers and some people in utilities and IT.
Anyone can check if they are eligible and where they can get a test at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
Mr Hancock said: "From today employers of essential workers will be able to go on gov.uk to get a test for any of their workers.
"From tomorrow any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment themselves.
"This also applies for people in essential workers' households.
"Those included will be based on the list for schools and education".
"The whole process will be free and no-one will have to pay out for the tests."
He said capacity for carrying out tests was now "ahead of our plans", with the ability to carry out more than 50,000 tests a day.
"Because capacity has now increased so substantially we are now able to expand who can get the tests.
"Our ultimate goal is that everyone who could benefit from a test gets a test."
He said "essential workers" in England and their families - based on criteria similar to those used for deciding who can still attend school - will be able to be tested.
Mr Hancock said testing was also being used to establish how many people have and have had coronavirus.
"These are critical pieces of information to inform our battle against this novel virus," he said.
In a further development today, it was announced that up to 300,000 people in Britain are set to take part in new government research aimed at understanding Covid-19's rate of infection and how many people have antibodies to the virus.
Initially, 25,000 people would take part, with plans to expand it to 300,000 over the next 12 months.
Participants will provide regular samples taken from self-administered swabs and answer a few short questions.
Mr Hancock said letters had started to go out and appealed to anyone asked to become involved to do so.
"The early signs from today are that there is huge enthusiasm from those who have received letters taking part in this survey," he said.