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Everyone in the UK with symptoms of Covid-19 can get a test if they are five or over, Matt Hancock has announced.
The health secretary unveiled the expansion of the government’s testing programme in the Commons on Monday amid growing concern over plans to reopen schools to some children on June 1.
Hancock also said that more than 21,000 contact tracers had been recruited, as ministers try to build an effective “test, track and trace” strategy as lockdown measures begin to ease.
“We are expanding eligibility for testing further than ever before,” Hancock told MPs.
It was not yet clear, however, where or when people would be able to access the promised additional tests.
Hancock added: “Yesterday we conducted 100,678 tests. Every day we are creating more capacity and that means more people can be tested, and the virus has fewer places to hide.
“Today, I can announce to the House that everyone aged five and over with symptoms is now eligible for a test.
“That applies right across the UK in all four nations from now.
“Anyone with a new continuous cough, a high temperature or the loss or change of sense of taste or smell can book a test by visiting nhs.uk/coronavirus.”
Revealing new figures for contact tracers, Hancock said: “Today I can confirm that we have recruited over 21,000 contact tracers in England. This includes 7,500 health care professionals who will provide our call handlers with expert clinical advice.
“They will help manually trace the contacts of anyone who’s had a positive test and advise them on whether they need to isolate. They have rigorous training with detailed procedures designed by our experts at Public Health England.”
It is a rapid recruitment after Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis said last week that just 1,500 had then been hired.
Hancock said people who are experiencing a loss or change in their sense of smell, even without any other coronavirus symptom, should self-isolate for seven days or until they are better.
“From today we are including anosmia, which means that if you have lost your sense of smell or are experiencing a change in your normal sense of smell or taste, that can be a symptom of coronavirus, even where the other symptoms are not present,” he said.
“So, from today, if you develop a continuous cough, or fever or anosmia you should immediately self-isolate for at least seven days in line with the guidelines. Members of your household should self-isolate for 14 days.”
The health secretary was unable to confirm when the government’s full “test, track and trace” system would be fully operational, however.