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Boris Johnson preparing mass testing ‘blitz’ as part of plan to lift lockdown

Government aiming to deliver up to 75 million tests a week by April

Boris Johnson is planning a mass testing blitz as the Covid-19 lockdown is eased and the country moves towards a “new normal”.

NHS Test and Trace is readying for nationwide “surge” testing under which more than 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests will be sent by post to homes and workplaces every day, The Times reports.

Ministers hope to start the campaign before schools return in March, the paper adds, and are looking to line up household names to front the initiative, which has been given the provisional slogan: “Are you ready? Get testing. Go”

The Royal Mail is beginning preparations for the delivery of 400,000 tests a day, or nearly three million a week, by March. It is estimated that by April the government could be supplying about 75 million tests a week.

A minister told The Times: “The vaccination programme is going better than we could have hoped, but testing is the key to getting the economy going again.”

Once the mass testing drive is underway, the government may use results from nightclubs, music venues and sporting events to “monitor levels of Covid-19 – even after the population is vaccinated”, The Guardian adds. The government is understood to have held discussions with music industry bosses about how data collected from mass testing could also be fed in to public health policy.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, the chief executive of UK Music and a former aide to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said “rapid testing has huge potential to bring back large events safely”, adding that “if government still sees mass testing as a means of keeping case rates down, then live events could act as a driver for mass testing take-up, especially among young people”.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi added: “It’s a combination of rapid testing as well as the mass vaccination programme that will get our economy back on its feet and venues open again.”

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