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Coronavirus: All businesses in England now able to get free COVID-19 rapid tests

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·3-min read
A worker assembles PCP coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits at the SureScreen Diagnostics, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Derby, Britain February 8, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Pool
Businesses have been encouraged to register their interest by 31 March to access free workplace testing, which has become a vital part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the national lockdown. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble/Pool

All businesses across England are now able to sign up to the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing programme.

This will mean that free rapid tests will now be available to companies of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees.

Businesses have been encouraged to register their interest by 31 March to access free workplace testing, which has become a vital part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the national lockdown. The testing programme will remain free until the end of June.

According to government data, around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing.

However, rapid testing detects cases in under 30 minutes, enabling those who test positive to isolate immediately and break chains of transmission.

“Regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak,” the UK government said.

So far over 3,500 businesses are signed up to offer workplace testing programmes, and over 14,000 have registered their interest in offering rapid testing, with many already rolling tests out.

READ MORE: UK government to inject £1.7bn for UK COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Regular workplace testing is a vital part of our route back to normal life, which is why I’m very pleased that we’re now expanding our offer of free workplace testing to businesses of all sizes, including SMEs.

“These rapid tests will allow positive cases of Covid-19 to be caught quickly, which is crucial in helping businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions.”

The move was also hailed by industry bodies. Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Business (FSB) said: “It’s great to see that the smallest businesses can now apply to set-up testing facilities on their premises.

“It’s vital that they are given all the support they need to do so successfully as they focus on staying afloat in extremely changing circumstances. We’d encourage all small firms that would benefit from a testing facility to apply as swiftly as they can.”

It comes as more than 21 million people have been vaccinated (with a first dose) so far in the UK.

The official estimate of the R number — how many people each infected person then reinfects — is between 0.6 and 0.9 for the UK, with new infections falling by 2% to 6% per day.

On Friday, a further 5,947 people tested positive with 236 deaths within 28 days of a positive test reported.

WATCH: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?