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Government urges firms to take up free COVID tests

2 March 2021: Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has called on UK businesses to apply for the free COVID-19 tests available to large firms to test their workforce and break the chains of transmission.

In a letter to UK businesses, Kwarteng strongly encouraged employers to take up the government’s offer of free COVID-19 tests. 

The government is providing employers with 50 or more employees with free lateral flow testing kits to test staff that cannot currently work from home, or who will return to the workplace as the economy opens up as set out in the government’s roadmap. 

The test kits are available until 30 June 2021 for firms that register by 31 March. The Department for Health and Social Care will also offer advice and guidance to support setting up testing facilities, along with a list of accredited private providers that can organise testing on businesses’ behalf (if preferred). Companies with fewer than 50 employees can use community testing for staff. 

Kwarteng said: “Around one in three people who have the virus have no symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading the virus. It is vital that we ramp up the testing of those without symptoms in order to break the chains of transmission.”

Supporting the rapid vaccine deployment strategy

The testing programme follows the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on the optimal strategy to further reduce mortality, morbidity and hospitalisations from COVID-19 disease in the next phase of the vaccination programme. 

The JCVI used mathematical modelling of vaccination strategies for the next phase (Phase 2), indicating that rapid vaccine deployment is the most important means to maximise public health benefits against severe outcomes from COVID-19. The committee agreed that mass vaccination targeting occupational groups would be more complex to deliver and may slow down the vaccine programme, leaving some more vulnerable people at higher risk unvaccinated for longer.

Following the JCVI’s reply, Kwarteng encouraged businesses to take up the government offer of free COVID-19 tests to detect those who are infected before whole teams fall ill, therefore supporting the vaccination programme. He added: “We want to be able to re-open the economy and recover our way of life as soon as it is safe to do so, and large-scale workplace testing will complement our work in getting the British people vaccinated.”

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