The Health Secretary expanded testing for the bug to make sure millions more people more can get them – under radical plans to get the country moving again.
It came as Britain’s testing capacity was ramped up to 51,000 today – although just over 20,000 tests were done.
The news means that anyone working in key industries – such as teachers, bankers or supermarket workers – can now get tested if they develop symptoms.
At least 10 million people are thought to qualify for the tests now, and thousands will be able to go back to work if theirs comes back negative.
Brits without a car will be offered a home test, including swabs and instructions – with 1,000 kits sent out daily before the scheme is ramped up.
They will be delivered by Amazon within 24 hours, before being collected the next day by Royal Mail.
All those tested will get their results by text within 48 hours of having their swab taken.
The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a new web portal for employers and self-referral for key workers and their families.
Anyone can check if they are eligible and where they can get a test at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
A helpdesk will be set up to deal with inquires too.
Mr Hancock said this evening that he wanted everyone who needed a test to get one in future.
He told the No10 briefing today: “From today employers of essential workers will be able to go on gov.uk to get a test for any of thieir workers.
“From tomorrow any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment themselves.
“This also applies for people in essential workers’ households.
“Those included will be based on the list for schools and education”.
The whole process will be free and noone will have to pay out for the tests.”
And he told the nation this evening is hiring at least 18,000 contact tracers to help track the disease’s spread across the population.
They will use apps and other technology to find out exactly who anyone with symptoms has come in contact with, and alert them as to what they need to do.
There are now 31 drive through testing sites available across the country, but workers have told how they have to drive hours to get there.
There are plans to set up around 50 testing centres like this in the coming weeks. But those who can’t get there will be able to access mobile testing units, or get them sent to their doors.
The five ways key workers and their families can get a test are:
- Testing in NHS hospitals
- Regional test centres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Satellite centres
- Be sent a home test kits
- Mobile testing units which travel around the country.
Until now, only limited numbers of Brits such as patients, health and care workers and some key public sector staff were eligible for a test.
It comes as half checks for the virus – around 25,000 – are currently going unused.
Ministers now want to offer them to the everyday heroes who have kept the country running during the lockdown.
Matt Hancock will also launch a publicity blitz to inform millions of Brits how they can get tested.
He wants to “help key workers return to work, which is key to keeping the country moving.”
Yesterday Mr Hancock told the House of Commons that Britain has reached the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
He said that ministers were trying to ramp up contact tracing so that all Brits could get access to them in future.
A NHS app is also being developed to try and monitor people who develop the virus, and tell them who they are likely to have come into contact with.