In order to help break down chains of transmission in the community, local authorities are being encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during lockdown, including those without symptoms.
Increasing asymptomatic testing is particularly significant in reducing Covid-19 infections as some of the most recent data shows that around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus without displaying any symptoms.
Identifying these asymptomatic carriers, ensuring they are aware if they test positive for the virus and self-isolate, will break transmission in the community and help protect those who cannot work from home and vital services.
Rapid, regular testing for people without symptoms of coronavirus will be made available across the country from this week, with the eligibility of the community testing programme having been expanded to cover all local authorities.
So far, 131 local authorities have signed up to community testing, with 107 having already started testing in their communities.
Many of these, including Essex and Milton Keynes, are focusing on the testing of critical workers and those who must leave home for essential reasons.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With roughly a third of people who have coronavirus not showing symptoms, targeted asymptomatic testing and subsequent isolation is highly effective in breaking chains of transmission.
“Rapid, regular testing is led by local authorities who design programmes based on their in-depth knowledge of the local populations, so testing can have the greatest impact.
“We are now expanding this offer to every local authority across the country, and asking testing to be targeted on workers who cannot work from home during this national lockdown, while asking employers to work with us to scale up workforce testing.
“Lateral flow tests have already been hugely successful in finding positive cases quickly – and every positive case found is helping to stop the spread - so I encourage employers and workers to take this offer up. We must all do all we can to stop the spread of Covid-19, right now.”