The likes of nightclubs and theatres could reopen their doors to the public thanks to the help of rapid Covid-19 tests, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested.
While speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday (15 Feb), Johnson said that the use of lateral flow tests could be the “route forward” to reopening those businesses that have been “the toughest to crack”.
Nightclubs have been closed since the beginning of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020. Theatres have also struggled to operate under social distancing guidelines.
‘Reopening nightclubs and theatres’
Johnson said: “What we are thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination - we intend to vaccinate all of the adults in the country by the autumn - plus lateral flow testing for those bits that have been the toughest nuts to crack.
“Such as nightclubs or theatres - those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year.”
He said that lateral flow testing “will be the route that we go down and that businesses will go down”.
“You are already seeing lots of businesses using the potential of rapid, on the day testing as well. I think, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” Johnson said.
He added that it was “still early days, there are lots of discussions still to be had”.
‘An increase in rapid testing’
The Prime Minister said that he expects there to be an increase in “rapid testing” as more people get vaccinated.
Johnson said: “Looking at the future, what we hope to have is such a high proportion of the population vaccinated that when you couple that with rapid testing - lateral flow testing - you really start to get the kind of answers that you’re talking about.
“So I think it’s in the context of having vaccinated a lot of the population, as we’re already doing - and we’ll do a lot more of in the next few months - that the rapid test approach will start, I think, to come into its own.”
What is lateral flow testing?
The Government says that lateral flow testing is “a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19, but who may still be spreading the virus”.
The tests give results in 30 minutes, and usually involve taking a sample from the back of the throat, near the tonsils, and from the nose, using a swab.
The swab is then dipping into an extraction solution, which is then dripped onto the lateral flow device’s paper pad, which gives the result.
Lateral flow tests have previously been used by the Government as part of “surge testing” in areas with high Covid-19 rates.
Overall, the Government is reported to have spent over £1 billion on lateral flow tests.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, described lateral flow test as “a really important part of our toolkit”.
In England, the Government revealed that rapid Covid-19 tests will be offered to workers even if they do not have any symptoms, in more than 70 per cent of local authorities.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Since the community testing programme was launched in December, local authorities have undertaken incredibly innovate work to rapidly get programmes up and running in local areas, using their local expertise.”