Boris Johnson will present a routine Covid-19 universal testing plan as a means to lift England out of the lockdown, as the government faced renewed backlash over the idea of app-based “passports” to allow entry. of people to crowded places and events.
Six months after Johnson revealed plans for ‘Operation Moonshot’, a massive £ 100bn testing scheme that never met its stated goal of avoiding another lockdown, everyone in England will be offered two Covid tests. a week from Friday.
The prime minister will announce the launch of lateral flow tests at a press conference Monday afternoon, in which he will also outline a program of test events for mass gatherings, as well as proposals to potentially restart overseas travel.
The testing scheme, which includes kits for use at home or in testing centers, workplaces and schools, is billed as a means of limiting any continued transmission of the virus in the community, in parallel with the vaccination program, and as a way to track potentially infectious disease outbreaks. Vaccine-resistant Covid variants.
The test and trace phone app will also be updated so that when pubs and other hospitality venues reopen, all members of a group will need to register, not just the lead person, and those who test positive are asked to share other places you have visited.
Some scientists have expressed skepticism of the plan, pointing to both the possibility of false negatives with lateral flow tests and the need for better support for people to self-isolate if they test positive.
Civil liberties groups and many MPs will also be wary if the new testing system potentially feeds off a Covid certificate regime, which would use recent testing, vaccination, or the presence of antibodies to the virus to determine entry to pubs or events. massive. Sometimes also called “Covid passports”, these would be purely for domestic use and would be distinct from a vaccination record to allow travel abroad.
Over the weekend, the government unveiled plans for nine pilot events, ranging from soccer games and a billiards tournament to comedy and business gatherings, to test the practicalities of Covid certificates, either on paper or via an app.
Such documents would allow people to enter the events if they had been vaccinated, or could show that they recently tested negative for Covid or had antibodies to the virus.
But the day after the pilot events were announced, five of the nine venues insisted they were not participating in a Covid certification test, with one saying it had received a “massive backlash” after the government announcement.
Liverpool city council, where four of the events are planned, said they would instead be general tests of how those venues could be reopened, including social distancing, ventilation and entrance test systems, but they were not. designed to feed a certificate proof.
Paul Blair, co-owner of the Hot Water Comedy Club in the city, which is organizing an event on April 16, said the venue had received abuse on social media and emails accusing it of being part of a “medical apartheid.”
Johnson has suggested that companies would welcome the option of using Covid’s passport schemes, but faces a battle to win parliamentary support for the idea. Last week, more than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, announced that they would oppose the idea.
One option for the government would be to use such certificates for mass events such as sports and for venues such as theaters, but not for access to pubs and bars.
The government has recently made plans for such certificates public, having previously scrapped the idea. However, documents seen by The Guardian show that research commissioned for the NHS ‘test and trace system reported as early as December on the ways in which Covid passports work.
The documents include mockups of potential app-based passports and research on potential public attitudes towards their use as a condition of entry not only to events such as football games or pubs, but also to family gatherings such as weddings.
In a quote posted to promote the new testing system, Johnson praised the progress of vaccination, saying that testing was now “even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
He said: “This is why we are now rolling out free rapid tests for everyone in England, helping us stop outbreaks in their tracks, so that we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
The test protocols in the other UK nations are organized by the delegate governments.
Free trials are now available to frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents, and school children and their families. As part of the deployment to the entire population, individuals will be able to request that the tests be delivered to their homes and visit participating pharmacies to collect boxes of seven.
Stephen Reicher, a professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of Sage’s Spi-B subcommittee that advises on behavioral sciences, said testing alone was not “a solution”, noting a false negative rate for self-administered lateral administration. flow testing up to 50%, as well as a lack of follow-up contact or support for those who self-isolate.
He said: “All in all, the government continues to look for quick fixes based on intervention. What they consistently fail to do is build a system in which all parties work together to contain the virus. “
John Drury, professor of social psychology at the University of Sussex and also a member of Spi-B, but speaking in a personal capacity, said: “Are the tests twice a week going to be accompanied by the necessary support for self-isolation, which currently? It is insufficient? Otherwise, increased testing helps with the data, but not the nuts and bolts of dealing with the virus. “
Labor said they supported the mass testing plan, but expressed similar concerns. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “To break chains of transmission and suppress infections, testing must go hand in hand with community public health-led contact tracing to find cases and must be supported. for decent financial support so that sick people can isolate themselves. “