Tuesday 1 December 2020 9:28 PM UTC
LONDON Dec 2: Ethnic minorities could be prioritised for coronavirus tests as part of Number 10’s plans to move hotspot areas out of Tier 3 restrictions through regular swabbing.
Under the new scheme – which starts when the national lockdown ends – councils will be entitled to target specific groups for regular, asymptomatic testing.
People may be selected based on their age group, job type, where they live or which community they are from. Local officials may be able to offer shopping vouchers to incentivise people to be routinely swabbed.
General Sir Gordon Messenger, head of operations for the testing programme, said the strategy was no longer about ‘mass testing’.
He told a Downing Street press conference last night: ‘It’s about tailoring to local needs, and that might be geographically specific, or it might be ethnic community specific.’
Councils under the toughest curbs can now apply for six week’s worth of lateral flow tests, which give results in as little as 30 minutes, as part of the scheme.
They will be paid £14 for every test carried out in a bid to encourage widespread uptake. Authorities could use the money on ‘discount schemes with local businesses’ to incentivise residents to get checked for the disease.
Under the new local testing guidance, Number 10 also makes provision for so-called ‘freedom passes’, where those who get a negative result could be allowed into pubs, restaurants and sporting grounds, which are supposed to stay closed in Tier 3.
Boris Johnson wants to use routine swabbing as a way to keep the virus squashed until vaccines can be distributed en masse.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night that mass testing was key to breaking transmission chains. General Sir Gordon Messenger, who is handling the testing scheme, said the strategy was ‘about tailoring to local needs, and that might be geographically specific, or it might be ethnic community specific’
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