The British government is increasing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus testing at workplaces that have been open during lockdown in order to detect asymptomatic cases.
Cabinet ministers will encourage the sectors where employees cannot work from home during lockdown, from transport networks to food manufacturers, to take up the offer of rapid workplace testing, the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement on Sunday.
The whole of England is in its third national lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring. Under these restrictions, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson placed in January, people are told to stay at home, but those who cannot work from home are allowed to travel to work.
Identifying CCP virus cases in employees who are not showing symptoms is important because it will help stem the spread of the virus and ensure vital public and economic services can continue, according to the government.
“When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focusing testing on those without symptoms is so essential,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The government rolled out targeted asymptomatic testing across England on Jan. 10. So far, 112 organisations across almost 500 sites have joined the programme.
The government said on Sunday that it has now widened the criteria for joining the workplace testing programme from businesses with more than 250 employees to businesses with more than 50 employees.
“We are already working with many employers to scale up workforce testing, spanning the food industry, retail sector, transport network, and across the public sector too. I strongly urge businesses and employees across the country to take up this offer of rapid testing to help stop this virus spreading further,” Hancock said.
The workplace testing will use lateral flow devices, which can produce a result in less than 30 minutes without the need for laboratory testing.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Hancock called lateral flow tests “a proven success in this fight.”
“They’ve already detected more than 54,000 positive cases which would otherwise not have been found,” he wrote.
The UK government’s mass testing programme has been criticised by some medical experts. Weekly medical journal the BMJ said in a November 2020 editorial that the programme was “an unevaluated, under-designed, and costly mess.”
It added that the mass testing programme shouldn’t continue or be used as a basis of whether people should self-isolate until it has been externally and independently scrutinised.
Lily Zhou and Simon Veazey contributed to this report.