The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson is to reveal a plan for universal COVID-19 tests in order to ease out lockdown in England.
From Friday, everyone in England will be offered two COVID tests a week.
Johnson is expected to announce the distribution of the tests at a press conference today.
The COVID-19 testing scheme, including at-home kits, is billed as a means to limit any continued community transmission of the virus, in parallel with the vaccination program, and as a way to track outbreaks of potentially vaccine-resistant Covid variants, according to The Guardian.
However, some experts have expressed skepticism at the scheme, noting the possibility of false negatives with lateral flow tests.
Previously, Johnson praised the progress with vaccination and said the tests were now “even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”
“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy,” he added.
Free COVID testing is already available to NHS workers, care home staff, residents, schoolchildren, and their families.
Prof. Stephen Reicher of the University of St. Andrews said testing by itself was “no solution,” noting that a rate of false negatives for self-administered lateral flow tests of up to 50%, as well as a lack of contact tracing or support for those self-isolating, according to The Guardian.
He said, “All in all, the government keeps on seeking quick fixes based on one intervention. What they consistently fail to do is to build a system in which all the parts work together to contain the virus.”
Prof. John Drury of the University of Sussex said, “Is twice-weekly testing going to be accompanied by the required support for self-isolation, which currently is insufficient? If not, increased testing helps with the data but not with the practicalities of dealing with the virus.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, backed the mass testing scheme but expressed similar concerns.
He said, “To break transmission chains and suppress infections, testing must go hand in hand with community public health-led contact tracing to find cases and must be backed up by decent financial support so sick people can isolate.” The story originally appeared in The Guardian.