Anyone in England with coronavirus symptoms who either has to leave home to go to work or is aged 65 and over will now be able to get tested.
This will mean people who cannot work from home and those aged 65 and over can know for sure whether they have coronavirus and need to continue isolating. Members of their households with symptoms – a new continuous cough or high temperature - will also be eligible for testing.
Secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock said: ”Any worker who needs to leave their home in order to go to work, and their households, if any of them have symptoms can also get a test. This means construction workers to emergency plumbers, research scientists to those in manufacturing – can now be tested. All they need to do is go on the internet and apply for a test.”
There are two ways to arrange a test:
• Self-referral – enables workers and members of their households who have symptoms to book a test directly using the online system
• Employer referral – allows employers to refer workers for a test via a secure portal. Employers will need to obtain a login by emailing email@example.com with their organisation name, nature of their business, region, and names and email addresses for two users. Build UK advises that contractors may find it more efficient for clients already registered for their essential workers to request the test on their behalf.
The announcement of the extension of testing came just hours after an appeal from the Unite union on behalf of its construction industry members.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail wrote in a letter to Mr Hancock yesterday: “Many construction workers continued to work through the lockdown and furloughed workers are being phased back ahead of other sectors.
“Unite believes construction workers should be included within the sectors designated for Covid-19 testing as one of a number of measures necessary to prevent the spread.”
She concluded: “Government needs to understand that construction workers have travelled to and from work amongst these other key workers and will continue to do so. For testing to be effective within the key worker group construction workers must be included.”
Testing for coronavirus helps the government and scientists understand its current spread and plan how to manage the pandemic.
As capacity has increased, testing has been offered to different groups in a phased approach, prioritising NHS workers. However, the ultimate aim is that anyone who needs a test will be able to have one. The latest announcement marks a further step towards that goal, the government said.
It follows the announcement last week that all essential workers with symptoms can now book a coronavirus test, or order a home testing kit, using the new online portal.
There are now more than 40 drive-through testing sites across the country, and, by the end of the week, 25,000 home testing kits will be available for ordering every day and 70 mobile testing units will be in operation.
After a faltering start, the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity has increased significantly since the beginning of April and currently stands at 73,400 tests per day. The government says that it is on track to reach 100,000 tests daily “by the end of the month” (which is tomorrow).
After the secretary of state made the announcement at the daily press briefing, Gail Cartmail tweeted: “ Unite has won this.”