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Boris Johnson Says People May Need Rapid Covid Tests To Get Into Nightclubs And Theatres

4 min read

Lateral flow tests may be used to re-open parts of the economy “which are the toughest nuts to crack”, such as theatres and nightclubs, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference high-capacity venues, which have been shut since the start of the pandemic, may require people to prove they have not got Covid-19 before they enter.

He was speaking ahead of the publication of his new roadmap to take the country out of lockdown next week, which is expected to include a timetable for when different aspects of the hospitality trade can finally unlock their doors.

The PM once again ruled out the use of “vaccine passports” where people would have to prove their immunity to the virus before entering entertainment venues.

But he said he could see lateral flow tests, which give a result in around 20 minutes, being increasingly used in some areas.

"For the purposes of this country and doing things within the domestic UK economy, we’ll look at everything," Johnson said.

"But what we’re thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination, and as you know we intend to vaccinate all the adults in the country by the autumn, plus lateral flow testing

“Rapid testing, for those bits that have been the toughest nuts to crack, as it were, such as nightclubs or theatres. Those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year.

“I think that will be the route that we go down and that businesses will go down.“And you’re already seeing lots of businesses using the potential of rapid on-the-day testing as well.

“I think that in combination with vaccination will probably be the route forward. Though I want to stress to everybody, it is still early days, there’s lots of discussions still to be had.”

The comments will raise fears over cost and practicality for high-capacity venues, and there has been criticism of lateral flow tests for producing false negative readings.

The PM begun the televised briefing by hailing the success of the UK’s vaccination programme, which he said continues to "power past" the targets set for it after successfully jabbing more than 15 million people in the top 4 cohorts yesterday.

"This is an unprecedented national achievement but it is no moment to relax,” he said.

"In fact it is the moment to accelerate because the threat from this virus remains very real."

Today’s data shows of the 15,839,781 total vaccines given in the UK so far, 15,300,151 were first doses – a rise of 237,962 on the previous day.

The next million invitation letters to those over-65s and those aged 16-64 with underlying conditions, as well as adult carers, have now been sent out.

Johnson said: "If we can keep this pace up and if we can keep supply steady – and I hope and believe we can – then we hope to offer a vaccination to everyone in the first nine priority groups, including everyone over 50, by the end of April."

He said there were "grounds for confidence" the vaccines were helping to curb the spread of coronavirus, not just in protecting those who received the jab.

But he admitted he could not guarantee there would be no further lockdowns “because we are battling with nature, with a disease that is capable of mutating and changing”.The PM urged people to take reports on the easing of lockdown restrictions "with a pinch of salt".

"We don't really yet have sufficient clarity on the data to be sure now, today, as of this Monday 15th exactly what we'll be able to say to you on Monday 22nd,” he explained.

"That's because the data becomes clearer with every day that passes and we have to continue to evaluate.

"And also, to be absolutely clear, these decisions we will take in the course of this week but they are not yet taken.

The government revealed the number of new coronavirus cases reported today was 9,765, dipping below 10,000 for the first time since 2 October last year, and bringing the seven-day case rate downing to its lowest figure since the end of September.

The number of patients in hospital continues to fall, but at 23,341 is still extremely high and is more than 1,500 more than the peak figure during the first wave of the pandemic.

And the government also said a further 230 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, the lowest daily increase since December 26.

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