Boris Johnson launches mass testing drive as United Kingdom lockdown eases

Tuesday, 06 Apr, 2021

Johnson, who is set to announce plans for the reopening of more areas of the economy and worldwide travel on Monday, said the mass testing scheme would help break the chain of transmission and notify authorities of symptomless cases.

The UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch foreign travel, now banned except for a handful of permitted reasons.

Tanzer pointed to Abta research which suggests 63% of people hope to book a holiday overseas and urged them to book package holidays for "the best level of protection should circumstances change".

The government previously set out four "tests" for easing lockdown: the vaccine programme continues successfully; vaccines are effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths; infection rates do not risk overwhelming the British National Health Service (NHS), and the variants of concern do not pose a large risk.

"The net result of your efforts and of course the vaccine rollout is that I can today confirm that from Monday April 12, we will move to step two of our road map", said the prime minister. Conservative legislator Graham Brady said vaccine passports would be "intrusive, costly and unnecessary".

Britain plans to use a traffic-light risk system for countries once non-essential global travel resumes but the government said it was too soon to say which countries could be given the green light that would only require testing before and after travel. Countries on the amber list would require self-isolation.

Britons are among Europe's highest spending tourists so the fortunes of the continent's summer season and the travel industry, hit hard by restrictions imposed on travel because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will depend on when tourists can return to the beaches, cafes and tavernas of southern Europe.

To date, close to half of the country's population has received the vaccination.

Latest government figures released on Monday showed another 2,762 cases had been confirmed, and a further 26 people had died with coronavirus within 28 days of testing positive.

The government has announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.

"I wish I could give you more on that, I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from May 17, but we're not there yet", Johnson said.

It's recorded nearly 127,000 deaths - the fifth-highest death toll in the world.

From Thursday, those living in England will be able to access two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread.

He said while it "makes sense" to ask people to take a test before going to events such as football games "we don't think asking you to produce a vaccination passport, which is this digital ID card, is fair".

"Even without government intervention, Covid status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes", it added.

"That's why we're now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England-helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy".

The lateral flow tests will be available at workplaces, community sites, schools and colleges.