Take two Covid-19 tests a week, says Matt Hancock  1 year ago

Take two Covid-19 tests a week, says Matt Hancock 

The health secretary is launching a campaign urging everyone in England to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week 

From today, everybody in England will be eligible for free lateral flow tests twice a week, with the government hoping that people will “get into the habit” of using them, the department for health and social care have said.

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The government say the tests will be distributed by home ordering, by work testing programmes, by community testing, by organised collection, by testing on-site at schools, and by collections from pharmacies.

One in three people with Covid-19 do not exhibit symptoms but are still contagious; the government hope rapid lateral flow testing will detect more cases and enable people to isolate more quickly.

Lateral flow Covid-19 tests can provide results in less than 30 minutes, and are normally done by using a swab inside the nose. 

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The tests have been criticised for providing inaccurate results, with almost 25 per cent of some lateral flow tests showing a false negative - but they are highly effective in people with a high viral load, i.e those most likely to pass on the virus.

And the department of health and social care said: "Recent analysis from NHS Test and Trace shows that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result. "

The government say this is to help the public take the “next step safely”, saying the testing is “an essential part of easing restrictions, helping identify variants, and stopping individual cases from becoming outbreaks.” 

The announcements about twice a week testing today will be part of a wider campaign across television, print, outdoor, and digital media.

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A TV advert encouraging the public to get tested twice a week for Covid-19 will air for the first time on ITV at approximately 7.15pm tonight. 

Health and social care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Around one in three people have coronavirus without any symptoms, so getting tested regularly is one of the simplest and easiest ways we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. 

“I’d encourage everyone to take up the offer and test twice a week.

“Alongside the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, rapid testing will be one of our most effective weapons in tackling this virus and ensuring we can cautiously reopen our economy and parts of society that we have all missed.

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"The British people have made a tremendous effort throughout the pandemic and I am confident they will do the same now by taking up this offer of free, rapid tests."

The new announcement follows plans leaked to The British Medical Journal last year that revealed  the government's "Operation Moonshot", which sought to test ten million people per day.

Scientists cast doubt on the plans at the time, questioning whether the strategy would actually work in suppressing the virus - including the government's chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance.

In September last year he said: “There are prototypes which look as though they have some effect, but they’ve got to be tested properly.

“We would be completely wrong to assume this is a slam dunk that can definitely happen.”

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It is also estimated the plans would cost a whopping £100 billion, but the government suggested Operation Moonshot would "support economic activity and a return to normal life."

Also among the government's announcements today were plans that the "Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air" campaign would be updated to "remind" the public to use the NHS Covid-19 app when entering outdoor hospitality, hairdressers and gyms.

These announcements further confirm that the government’s route out of lockdown will heavily rely on caveats like testing, which will raise eyebrows - given the government had signalled 21 June would be a return to normality.

The government are already grappling with a large scale rebellion in the Conservative party over a vote on the introduction of vaccine passports, which Tory rebels argue are a violation of personal liberty.

Labour are also opposing vaccine passports, with Labour leader Keir Starmer describing them as "un-British."

To order a Covid-19 test, visit nhs.uk/get-tested  and follow the instructions.

Anybody experiencing Covid-19 symptoms should order a PCR test, which is more accurate, by visiting gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test, or calling 119.