COVID-19 testing among medical and care staff with no symptoms in England will be paused at the end of August, the UK government has announced.
The Department of Health and Social Care said on Aug. 24 that regular asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in all remaining settings in England will be paused from Aug. 31.
As part of the government’s “Living with COVID” plan, free testing for the public ended on April 1. But asymptomatic testing continued to be used in some settings, including health and social care, during periods of high case rates.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the pause in routine asymptomatic testing in most high-risk settings “reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced.”
But he said the health authorities will continue to monitor the situation and will resume testing “should it be needed.”
Asymptomatic testing will remain in place for people being admitted to hospices and for those going into care homes and for immunocompromised patients who are being admitted to hospitals, the government said.
Testing for people with symptoms will continue in some National Health Service (NHS), social care, and prison system settings.
This will include NHS staff with symptoms; patients who need a diagnosis so they can access COVID-19 treatments; care home and hospice staff; social care staff; hospice and care home residents; prison staff and detainees; and staff and service users of certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness services.
The volume of COVID-19 tests has declined drastically since free testing for the general public came to an end in April.
At its peak, the UK’s COVID-19 capacity was processing daily results from PCR testing site results and millions of lateral flow tests.
The NHS Test and Trace Service (NHST&T) has been one of the most expensive health programmes delivered in the pandemic, costing nearly 20 percent of the entire 2020–21 budget of the NHS in England.
Despite the cost, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons said, the mass testing programme “failed” to deliver on its main objectives, such as averting another lockdown.
The programme’s outcomes “have been muddled and a number of its professed aims have been overstated or not achieved,” the committee said in a report published in October.
PA Media contributed to this report.