Rapid coronavirus testing could be implemented across certain hospitality businesses to help reopen “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Government is considering several new protective measures to enable activities like visiting the pub. But will rapid tests be needed to go to the pub?
What is rapid testing and how does it work?
Rapid testing kits, also known as rapid lateral flow tests, are a coronavirus testing method which does not require samples to be sent to a laboratory to be tested and processed.
Instead, these tests can return results in around 30 minutes.
Rapid tests are aimed at identifying asymptomatic individuals who are at risk of spreading the virus but do not have any identifiable symptoms themselves.
People with a positive test result must immediately self-isolate.
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Boris Johnson said rapid coronavirus test results could be needed to reopen certain businesses including theatres and nightclubs.
He discussed the possibility of using lateral flow tests to identify asymptomatic cases, saying it would be preferable to require people to prove they had been vaccinated.
The idea of vaccine passports for enabling activities like visiting pubs was raised this week.
However, it has been dismissed by various Cabinet ministers this week, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock claiming the Government is only considering these passports for individuals visiting from other countries.
Mr Johnson added he felt it may become “inevitable” for such schemes to enable foreign travel to open up.
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Last week, the Government announced rapid testing would be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees in a bid to control the coronavirus crisis.
These tests were only previously available to firms with more than 250 staff members.
But now the move is intended to “normalise” testing in the workplace and ensure the safety of those who cannot work from home.
Mr Hancock said: “Employers should regularly test their staff, and this drive across government to raise awareness and encourage more businesses to introduce rapid testing for employees is incredibly important.
“When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focusing testing on those without symptoms is so essential.
“We are already working with many employers to scale up workforce testing, spanning the food industry, retail sector, transport network, and across the public sector too.
“I strongly urge businesses and employees across the country to take up this offer of rapid testing to help stop this virus spreading further.”
Mr Johnson is drawing up plans to issue rapid testing for millions of people in England, according to The Times.
NHS Test and Trace is preparing to undertake nationwide “surge” testing, which would see more than 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests being sent by post to homes and workplaces every day, it said.
The campaign is intended to return the country to a “new normal”.
Ministers hope the move will encourage people to get a test, even if they are not showing any symptoms.
The Department for Health and Social Care has not denied suggestions that rapid-result tests will be a big part of the return to normality.