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Twice weekly coronavirus testing to be offered and passports spark debate

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New plans for easing lockdown will include twice-weekly rapid tests and could include new Covid-19 vaccination passports.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet is later today (Monday, April 5) expected to sign off on the next stage of the roadmap ahead of a press conference this afternoon which will also include guidance on foreign holidays.

Here’s what we know so far:

Young woman holds a swab into her mouth and holding a medical tube for the coronavirus /Covid-19 home test. Photo: istock
Young woman holds a swab into her mouth and holding a medical tube for the coronavirus /Covid-19 home test. Photo: istock

More rapid testing

Free twice-weekly lateral flow tests will be offered to everyone ahead of further lockdown relaxation.

The lateral flow testing kits – which can give results in up to 30 minutes – will be available from a number of sites from Friday.

They include:

  • Online orders
  • Workplace testing programmes
  • Community testing centres
  • Collection from local testing sites during specific time windows
  • Testing at schools and colleges
  • Collections from pharmacies by those aged over 18

The aim will be to tighten controls on outbreaks and is an extension of the Government’s aims to offer 10 million tests a day.

The government says one in three people with Covid-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus unwittingly.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “As we reopen society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks.

“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.

“The British public have shown over the last year that they quickly adapt and always do what it is right in the interest of public health, and I know they will do their bit by getting tested regularly in the months ahead.”

The government’s NHS Covid-19 app will also be updated so that groups will be required to check-in using it when entering hospitality venues.

Passport sparks debate

The controversial Covid-10 passports, which will be used to allow attendance at mass-audience events including concerts and sports matches, were expanded on over the weekend.

Officially known as the “Covid status certification” due to the government’s reluctance to use the word “passport”, the scheme would record a persons status using an app – though it’s not clear if this would be the NHS one or an entirely separate one.

A paper certificate could also be issued for those without smartphones.

Businesses opening on April 12, including pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops, will not be required to introduce certification.

Public transport and essential shops will also be exempt from the plans.

The government has so far insisted that any measures would be “time limited”

However, those against the plans have warned it would segregate the country.

Baroness Chakrabarti told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it would create a “checkpoint Britain”.

“It’s one thing to have a passport to travel internationally, that is a privilege, even a luxury, but participating in local community life is a fundamental right,” she said.

More than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, as well as peers from the House of Lords, have signed a pledge against the plans.

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