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The government has published a list of essential workers in England who will be able to book a free coronavirus test online from Friday.
On Thursday, health secretary Matt Hancock said workers in essential roles showing symptoms of the virus would be able to book a Covid-19 test on the gov.uk website as part of the government’s strategy to get “Britain back on her feet”.
People who live with essential workers will also be use the service.
Under the government’s current social distancing rules, anyone with coronavirus symptoms must remain at home for a week.
Meanwhile, anyone living with a symptomatic person must quarantine at home for a fortnight, unless they develop symptoms themselves.
It is hoped the new scheme will allow essential workers who test negative – or whose symptomatic family members test negative – for the virus to be able to return to work immediately.
How will the new system work?
After inputting their details into the new portal, essential workers and their families will get a text or email on the same day inviting them to book a test at a drive-through testing site, or will receive a home-testing kit.
Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, the Department of Health said, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.
The aim is that most people should not have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a regional testing site.
On Thursday, the government also launched a scheme to allow employers of essential workers to refer them for a coronavirus test.
Which essential workers will be able to use the service?
Each country in the UK defines ‘essential workers’ slightly differently. The list of workers eligible for the new testing system published by the department of health on Thursday applies to England.
The list includes:
All NHS and social care staff
- doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers
- support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector
- those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines, and medical and personal protective equipment
Essential public services staff
- prisons, probation, courts and tribunals staff, judiciary
- religious staff
- charities and workers delivering critical frontline services
- those responsible for the management of the deceased
- journalists and broadcasters covering coronavirus or providing public service broadcasting
Public safety and national security staff
- police and support staff
- Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of critical defence and national security outputs and critical to the response to the coronavirus pandemic)
- fire and rescue service employees (including support staff),
- National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas
- those who keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus response
- those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass
Education and childcare workers
- support and teaching staff
- social workers
- specialist education professionals
Critical personnel in the production and distribution of food, drink and essential goods
- those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery
- those critical to the provision of other essential goods, such as medical supply chain and distribution workers, including veterinary medicine
- workers critical to the continuity of essential movement of goods
Utilities, communication and financial services staff
- staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
- the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
- information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus response
- essential staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 essential services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors
Other workers included on the list:
- public and environmental health staff, including in government agencies and arm’s length bodies
- frontline local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers