Govt expands workplace testing programme

In the next phase of the UK Government’s workplace testing programme, all employers will now be able to offer staff free, rapid and regular tests which can be taken at home.

Businesses with over 10 employees and which cannot offer on-site testing are invited to register interest by 12th April to access free tests.

The workplace testing programme uses lateral flow tests to rapidly detect the virus in 30 minutes. Swift detection of cases means those who test positive can isolate immediately and, in doing so, break chains of transmission and suppress the virus.

Over 60,000 businesses have already registered for the programme, which will be rolled out from 6th April.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said rapid testing is a vital part of the roadmap out of lockdown.

“Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms, so extending employee testing from the workplace to the home will help us identify more cases we otherwise wouldn’t find, prevent further transmission and save lives," he said.

“Businesses are encouraged to register before 12th April in order to access free tests until the end of June, even if they’re not yet open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.”

Welcoming the plans, Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “Mass, rapid workplace testing is an essential pillar of the roadmap for reopening, alongside the vaccine rollout. Having the option for staff to test at home will enable more firms to embrace workplace testing, as not all employers will have the space or facilities to run testing programmes on their premises. The move to home testing reflects ongoing, high quality dialogue between business and government. We’d encourage as many firms as possible to register before the 12th April deadline, as part of their broader efforts to keep staff and customers safe.”

The announcement comes alongside the introduction of ‘Step 1b’ of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

From today, outdoor sports facilities may open, including tennis and open-air swimming. Parent and child groups can take place outdoors in public spaces. Early years settings, schools and colleges are now open for all students. Students on practical university courses can also return. Students and staff will be regularly tested. Other Higher Education students should continue to learn remotely.

Individuals have been advised not mix indoors except with their household or support bubble. People may meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households.

Many other restrictions remain in place until the next phase of the roadmap, Step 2, including the advice to work from home where possible.

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