Millions more key workers and their families to be offered coronavirus tests as ministers struggle to hit 100,000 a day target
Ministers want to increase the number of tests being carried out to 100,000 a day.
Millions more key workers and their families are to be offered coronavirus tests, Matt Hancock has revealed.
The Health Secretary made the announcement as fresh doubt was cast on his pledge to hit 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.
According to the latest figures, just 22,800 people were tested in the last 24 hours, although there is now capacity to check 51,000 for Covid-19.
At the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock announced the number of essential workers eligible for the check-ups will now be ramped up as part of the Government's efforts to relax the lockdown measures and get the country "back on her feet".
That would include civil servants, supermarket staff, court staff, journalists and transport workers.
The minister said: "We can make it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test.
"From today employers of essential workers will be able to go on Gov.uk to get a test for any of their staff who need a test
"And from tomorrow, any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on Gov.uk themselves directly.
"This applies for people in essential workers’ households too who need a test. It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet
"Those included as essential workers will be based on the list for schools and education set out on Gov.uk.
"The whole process will be free and once you’ve entered your details you’lll get a text or an email inviting you to book an appointment.
"After you’ve had your test, results will be sent out via text and a helpdesk will be available to help with quieres."
Mr Hancock also confirmed 18,000 people are being hired to contact anyone suspected of having coronavirus and then trace their contacts in an attempt to slow down the spread of the illness.
He said: "We need to be really kick-starting contact tracing as the new number of cases begins to fall
"We’re preparing for this now by hiring an initial 18,000 people, including over 3,000 clinicians and public health specialists.
"We'll be traning up the massed ranks of our contact tracers over the coming weeks and roll out the service. This trest, track and trace will be vital to stop a second peak of the virus."
The move marks a major U-turn by the Government, which ditched its initial attempts to trace the contacts of all Covid-19 sufferers as the number of cases grew.
Meanwhile, Downing Street insisted the target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by 30 April remained in place.
That followed comments by John Newton, the Government official in charge of ramping up the number taking place, who appeared to dilute it when he said: "We have exponentially increased our testing capacity and we are on target to have capacity for 100,000 tests a day."
Labour's shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: "We urged the Government to do more testing and we have consistently questioned why ministers were not moving to a test and trace strategy. It is welcome ministers now recognise the importance of testing and tracing.
"It is crucial that greater numbers of critical workers such as care staff are now able to access testing.
"We will continue to hold the government to account for the promise it has made of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month."
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