Key workers, including shopkeepers, can now book a COVID-19 test for themselves and family

A nurse takes a swab at a Covid-19 Drive-Through testing station for NHS staff on March 30, 2020 in Chessington, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

All essential workers in England, and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus will now be able to get tested, the government has said on Thursday.

“We are making it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“This all applies for people in essential workers’ households who need a test too. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”

A new campaign will help essential workers in England – including NHS and care staff, teachers, hospital cleaners, public servants, the emergency services, supermarket staff, delivery drivers, and other critical infrastructure staff – to access testing.

Booking the test has been made via a new online system. The employers can register and refer self-isolating staff, and from today employees will be able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household who are experiencing symptoms – a high temperature or new continuous cough.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, welcomed the move.

“Our sector has played a vital role in feeding communities across the UK and providing vital services and it is welcome news that more key workers, including convenience colleagues, are going to be eligible for coronavirus testing,” he said.

“We will work with the government to make sure the testing process works smoothly for convenience retailers and their colleagues.”

Essential workers using the new portal can enter their details and will then receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment at one of more than 30 drive-through testing sites across the country, or receive a home testing kit.

Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.

The aim is that most people should not have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a regional testing site.

A network of new mobile testing units is being rapidly established. These will travel the country to reach care homes, police stations, prisons and other sites where there is demand for testing.

The units have been designed to clinical requirements by army engineers and can be easily set up in under 20 minutes.

The new mobile units will work alongside the drive-through test sites, together sending thousands of patient samples to the network of Lighthouse Labs, to rapidly increase the number of tests completed each day.

A delivery service for home testing kits has been designed with key industry partners, including Royal Mail and Amazon. The home delivery service will come on line from today.

The availability of home testing kits will initially be limited, but more will become available soon.

Since the beginning of April, the government has significantly increased the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity and is on track to provide 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.