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Coronavirus UK: Widespread testing to be extended to 10m essential workers

The government’s new online booking system allows far more people to apply for coronavirus testing in the UK, but early reports suggest that it may not be enough to cover all isolated sufferers.

SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 24: Nurses instruct and help National Health Service (NHS) workers as they self swab for Coronavirus (Covid-19) at a drive through testing site at the Owler Events Centre (OEC), which has donated it's facilities to h
Christopher FurlongGetty Images

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Thursday that millions of people are now eligible to book a coronavirus test online or through their employee if they become symptomatic of the virus. The more widespread testing criteria will include up to 10 million key workers and their households.

Speaking in Thursday’s daily briefing, Mr Hancock described the move as an important step in controlling the spread of Covid-19: “We can make it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test. This applies for people in essential workers’ households too, who need a test. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that this more widespread testing has been made possible with a broad range of testing methods. Home testing kits, mobile testing sites and satellite testing kits hare all hoped to help to government reach its target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated that testing is vital to the UK’s fight against coronavirus, calling it “the way through” in a speech in early April. “This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle,” he said. “This is how we will defeat it in the end.”

Daily coronavirus testing lags behind UK’s capacity

However, while these new measures allow more people to apply for testing, it does not necessarily mean that all will receive the testing they need.

Claire Phipps, The Guardian’s digital editor, reported on Friday morning that the option for home testing has already been removed from the online booking system, with only drive-through kits available currently.

Those with symptoms of coronavirus have been advised to self-isolate so home testing kits would be the only viable option for isolated sufferers without a car.

There have been some concerns that while the government is managing to up the country’s theoretical testing capacity, that capacity is not being utilised. In Thursday’s speech, Mr Hancock announced that the UK is now able to test 51,000 people a day. However, government figures for Thursday revealed that only 23,560 tests were actually carried out.

Labour to "hold the government to account" on tests promise

Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, said that Labour would be monitoring the uptake of testing in the hope that the government’s 100,000 target is met next week.

“It is crucial that greater numbers of critical workers such as care staff are now able to access testing,” he said. “We will continue to hold the government to account for the promise it has made of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.”

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