Rapid tests will be given to all local authorities in England with the aim of prioritizing key workers unable to work from home during the lockdown.
Lateral flow testing, which can return results in as little as 30 minutes, is the focus of the community testing program.
It comes as the pandemic accelerates in the UK and fears grow that the current lockdown restrictions will be ignored by the general public.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has warned the NHS is facing the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living memory and again begged people to stay home.
“If the virus continues on this trajectory, hospitals will be in real trouble, and soon,” he wrote in The Sunday Times.
The number of patients with COVID-19[feminine[feminine in hospital is at an all time high in England, while the coronavirus death toll for the UK spent 80,000 Saturday and laboratory-confirmed cases have reached over three million.
Doctors and experts have warned that things are likely to get even worse, with the full impact of Christmas not yet evident. A doctor told Sky News the NHS was “To break in front of us”.
Other experts felt the current lockdown measures were not tough enough, in the face of the more transmissible variant, and suggested that compliance was waning.
Sky News Analysis shows that people move more during this lockdown than the first, suggesting that people have become accustomed to bending the rules.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Priti Patel has warned of a crackdown on lockdown violations.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said targeted asymptomatic testing followed by isolation is “very effective in breaking the chains of transmission.”
He said the government was asking employers to “work with us to step up workforce testing” as it was announced that local authorities will be encouraged to target testing on those who cannot work from home.
He said: “Lateral flow testing has already been extremely effective in finding positive cases quickly – and every positive case found helps stop the spread – so I encourage employers and workers to take up this offer.
“We all need to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID, right now. ”
The government on Friday revealed a new TV campaign urging people to behave as if they were infected with coronavirus and stay at home.
The government is stepping up the vaccination campaign with the aim of meeting its goal of vaccinating 14 million vulnerable people in the UK by mid-February.
Letters have been sent to the 500,000 people over the age of 80 who live within a 45-minute drive of one of the seven new regional vaccination centers in England, urging them to make an appointment.
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Separately, Buckingham Palace revealed the The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh received their vaccinations of a doctor of the royal household on Saturday.
The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine will be available at more than 1,000 sites in Scotland from Monday; while the Premier of Wales, Mark Drakeford, tweeted that vaccinations “are gaining momentum”.
He has been criticized for the speed of the deployment which on Friday saw just 1.6% of the Welsh population bitten, compared to 1.9% in England and 2.1% in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
National deployment will be further accelerated in the spring, when the recently approved Moderna vaccine becomes available.