Boris Johnson To Announce 'Major' Covid-19 Community Testing Programme

The PM is also expected to confirm that families will be able to form Christmas “bubbles” to allow visits across the four nations of the UK.

The prime minister is expected to set out ‘major’ testing plans which will form part of stronger tiered local restrictions to replace England’s lockdown which ends on December 2.

Boris Johnson is also expected to confirm that families will be able to form Christmas “bubbles” to allow visits across the four nations of the UK for a limited number of days over the festive period, but the exact details will not be revealed until later in the week.

Leaders in local authorities that fall into the ‘very high’ alert category will be able to draw on the support of NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces to help the delivery of extensive community testing, including targeting highest risk areas under the government’s new Covid Winter Plan.

Johnson is expected to say: “The selflessness of people in following the rules is making a difference. The virus is not spreading nearly as quickly as it would if we were not washing our hands, maintaining social distance, wearing masks and so on. And in England, where nationwide measures came into effect at the start of this month, the increase in new cases is flattening off.

“But we are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still present in communities across the country, and remains both far more infectious and far more deadly than seasonal flu.

“But with expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there.”

This follows the success of whole community testing in Liverpool using rapid lateral flow tests, which produce test results within 30 minutes.

The Liverpool programme has seen over 200,000 people being tested and, alongside economic and social restrictions, has contributed to a substantial fall in Covid cases in that area.


Meanwhile, repeat testing will also be rapidly extended to prevent close contacts of those testing positive from having to isolate. Contacts of those who test positive will be offered the opportunity to be tested every day for a week and they will not need to isolate unless they test positive.

This repeated testing of contacts instead of isolation will be trialled in Liverpool from next week, if the results are promising then it will be extended across the NHS and care homes in December, before being rolled out to everyone from January.

The measures in the Covid Winter Plan - which are backed by an additional £7bn, taking the overall funding provided for test and trace this year to £22bn - will also mean every care home resident will be able to see two visitors twice a week by the end of this year.

Testing to enable indoor visits to care home residents is being piloted in 20 care homes ahead a national rollout next month. This will enable each care home resident in the country to have up to two visitors who can be tested twice a week. Visitors will be able to have physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands, with their loved ones.

Care workers looking after people in their own homes will also start to be offered weekly tests from Monday.

The major testing programme will draw on the use of tens of millions of tests in the coming weeks and months and form part of a package of measures that confirm the end of national restrictions and a return to regional tiers.

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Workers in food manufacturing, staff in prisons, and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines are also set to be offered weekly testing from December.

Testing capacity has already increased from 100,000 a day at the end of April to 500,000 by the end of October, with plans to go even further by the end of the year.

This capacity is available across the UK, and over 37 million tests have been conducted - more per head than any other comparable European country.

In parallel, the government has opened over 680 test sites, reducing the average distance travelled for a test to just 2.6 miles.

So far, testing has focused on those with symptoms and protecting those most at risk. In addition to this, the use of testing will be widened to identify those without symptoms who can infect people unknowingly.

Twice-weekly asymptomatic testing has already begun for NHS staff, and ministers have committed to increasing the frequency of testing for all care workers and residents from December. This will see staff tested twice-weekly rather than weekly, and residents weekly rather than monthly.

Every university in England has also been offered access to mass asymptomatic testing to help ensure students can travel home safely for Christmas.


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