Last reviewed 11 January 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that, with effect from 11 January, local authorities are to be encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during lockdown.

With around one in three people who have coronavirus displaying no symptoms, rapid, regular testing for people without symptoms will be made available across the country, with the eligibility of the community testing programme expanded to cover all 317 local authorities.

“Expansion of asymptomatic testing will identify more positive cases of Covid-19 and ensure those infected isolate, protecting those who cannot work from home and our vital services,” the DHSC said.

So far, 131 local authorities have signed up to community testing, with 107 already having started testing in their communities. Many of these, including Essex and Milton Keynes, are focusing on the testing of critical workers and those who must leave home for essential reasons.

In addition to local authorities, NHS Test and Trace will also work closely with other government departments to scale up workforce testing.

Many are piloting regular workforce testing, with 15 large employers having taken up this offer already across 64 sites, including organisations operating in the food, manufacturing, energy and retail sectors, and within the public sector including job centres, transport networks and the military.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that rapid, regular testing led by local authorities, who design programmes based on their in-depth knowledge of the local populations, ensures that testing can have the greatest impact.

“We are now expanding this offer to every local authority across the country,” he went on, “and asking for testing to be targeted on workers who cannot work from home during this national lockdown, while asking employers to work with us to scale up workforce testing.”

Targeted, regular community testing using lateral flow tests is highly effective and has already identified over 14,800 positive Covid-19 cases who would not have been identified without targeted asymptomatic testing, Mr Hancock pointed out.