Everyone in England will be urged to take a coronavirus test twice a week as a new system of COVID-19 passports is assessed for wide-scale use, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reopen the economy after lockdown.
Free test kits will be made available through local pharmacies, community centers and home delivery services, when the new regime goes live on April 9.
With most of the adult population now having received a vaccine, the government believes rapid testing of the whole population and a system of COVID-19 status certification will help keep control over the pandemic as restrictions are eased.
Johnson is due to set out the details later on Monday, ahead of the next step in lifting curbs for businesses and citizens due on April 12.
“Massive efforts have been made by the British public to stop the spread of the virus,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office. “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine program and with our road-map to cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
The U.K. has suffered the highest death toll in Europe from the pandemic and is still reeling from the country’s deepest recession in 300 years.
A vaccination program that has rapidly outpaced the rest of Europe has seen 31.5 million people given at least one shot so far, and puts the U.K. in a good position to reopen even as nearby countries such as France are locking down again.
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