NEW YORK – The UK Department of Health and Social Care has introduced a new program that will allow all businesses to access free workplace testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.
The testing program, announced on Saturday, is part of a strategy to lift restrictions in the UK. The country entered its third lockdown in January, and has been hit hard by the pandemic, with 4.2 million cases reported to date, including more than 120,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that regular workplace testing will be a "vital part of our route back to normal life," and said that is why the government decided to expand testing to all businesses, including those with fewer than 50 employees. The program relies on rapid lateral flow antigen tests.
"These rapid tests will allow positive cases of COVID-19 to be caught quickly, which is crucial in helping businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions," Hancock said in a statement.
UK businesses are encouraged to register for the program by March 31. So far, more than 3,500 companies have signed up to offer workplace testing, and 14,000 have registered their interest. Testing will remain free until the end of June, the government said. The government also launched an online portal for businesses to learn more about the program.
The UK government did not mention the manufacturer of its antigen tests in its statement. Last month, it inked an agreement with Derby, UK-based company SureScreen Diagnostics to supply it with 20 million SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests after Public Health England validated the assays.