Western Mail

England mass tests ‘a pass to freedom’


MASS testing in England could see people given a “freedom pass” to go about life as normal, safe in the knowledge they are not infectious with Covid-19, the Prime Minister has said.

Expanding on plans for so-called Operation Moonshot, Boris Johnson said that millions of people could be tested every day so they could “behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid”.

Theatres and sports venues in England could test all audience members and let in those with a negative result, the Prime Minister said at a Downing Street briefing.

Trials with audience members are to be run in indoor and outdoor venues in Salford from next month, he said, with a hope to go nationwide.

“We’re hoping the ‘Moonshot’ approach will work and we will be able to deliver mass testing which will give people the freedom pass, the ‘laissezpas­ser’, the knowledge that they are not infectious and can hang out with other people who are not infectious in a pre-Covid way,” he said.

But the proposals come as the current testing programme faced considerab­le criticism for struggling to meet demand.

Many people who tried to access a test yesterday were met with the error message telling them to try again and warning them not call the helplines.

And on Tuesday the NHS Test and Trace director of testing apologised to people who were unable to get a test in England.

The mass testing proposals were outlined as the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary and England’s chief medical officer all implored people not to get a test if they did not need one.

Professor Chris Whitty admitted there were “constraint­s” in the system, adding: “It’s critical that those who do need to be tested, and in particular people with symptoms or people who have been told to for a variety of reasons, social care working for example, get tested.

“But it is also important that people who really don’t have a clear clinical indication currently don’t (get tested) because we do still have constraint­s. Those are not just going to magically disappear”

Matt Hancock said there had been an increase in people seeking tests when they have not got symptoms of Covid-19.

Mr Johnson also reiterated the plea: “If you don’t have symptoms, and you haven’t been asked to book a test, please don’t.”

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