All businesses across England can now sign up for the government’s free COVID-19 workplace testing scheme.
This means that free rapid tests will now be available to businesses of all sizes, including those with less than 50 employees.
Businesses have been encouraged to express interest by March 31 to access free workplace testing, which has become a key part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap to exit the nationwide lockdown. The test program will remain free until the end of June.
According to government data, around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus have no symptoms, meaning they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing it.
However, rapid tests detect cases in less than 30 minutes, allowing those who test positive to self-isolate immediately and break chains of transmission.
“Regular testing could mean the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or having to close due to an outbreak of COVID-19,” the UK government said.
So far, more than 3,500 companies have signed up to offer workplace testing programs, and more than 14,000 have expressed interest in offering rapid tests, many of which have already rolled out testing.
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Regular workplace testing is an essential part of our return to normal life, which is why I am very pleased that we are now expanding our free testing offer. in the workplace to businesses of all sizes, including SMEs. .
“These rapid tests will enable the early detection of positive cases of Covid-19, which is crucial to help businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions.”
The move has also been welcomed by industry bodies. Mike Cherry, President of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “It’s great to see that smaller businesses can now apply to set up testing facilities on their premises.
“It is essential that they receive all the support they need to succeed, as they focus on staying afloat in extremely changing circumstances. We encourage all small businesses that would benefit from a test facility to apply as soon as possible. »
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 – the number of people each infected person then re-infects – is between 0.6 and 0.9 for the UK, with new infections falling by 2% to 6% per day.
On Friday, another 5,947 people tested positive with 236 deaths within 28 days of a reported positive test.
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