In Depth

Covid-19 tests: who can get one and how to apply

UK government expands testing programme to include millions of essential workers

Millions of key workers can book a coronavirus test online or through their employer from today, the UK government has announced.

Speaking on Thursday at the government’s daily briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that all essential workers in England and anyone in their households would be able to register for tests on the government’s official website if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

Expanding the testing programme is part of a plan to get Britain “back on her feet”, he added. However, many workers rushing to sign up were left frustrated on Friday morning, after the applications portal on gov.uk was closed owing to a surge in demand.

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Who can get tested?

According to the BBC, up to ten million key workers and their households are now eligible for testing.

Those who can register include NHS and social care workers, police officers, teachers, employees in the justice system, supermarket and food production staff, journalists and transport workers.

The government has said that testing is most effective within three days of symptoms - which include a high temperature or a new continuous cough - developing, Sky News reports.

Why has testing been expanded?

The Guardian suggests that Hancock is “desperate to meet a target for testing 100,000 people per day by Thursday 30 April”, but adds that the health boss is still a “long way off achieving that”.

This target “has been dismissed as arbitrary and overambitious, but Hancock is determined to meet it”, the newspaper says.

The minister told press at yesterday’s briefing that UK testing capacity had increased from 40,000 to 51,000, putting the scheme “ahead of our plans” to double this new total by the end of the month.

“Because capacity has now increased so substantially, we are now able to expand who can get the tests,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is that everyone who could benefit from a test gets a test.”

How do I apply?

Essential workers can enter their details on the government website and should then receive an email or text the same day inviting them to book a test.

Applicants can “choose between booking an appointment at one of more than 30 regional drive-through test sites or being sent a home test kit”, Sky News reports.

Hancock said that people who cannot go online can book a test through their employer, who may apply on the government’s website to get a test for any essential workers on their staff.

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