Two friends sit on the sea wall on a warm sunny Easter Sunday at Chalkwell beach on April 04, 2021 in Southend-on-Sea, England.
John Keeble | Getty Images News | Getty Images
LONDON — Everyone in England will be able to receive two Covid-19 tests for free every week as the U.K. government double down on its efforts to reopen the economy.
People living in England will be able to order the tests, which provide results in about 30 minutes, online, or collect them locally, the government announced Monday. The scheme, due to start Friday, comes as the country gears up to reopen stores and pubs in less than 10 days. Most have been closed since late 2020.
“This is a very important step forward, another step that will help us, with the easing of those restrictions, to get life back to normal in this country,” Edward Argar, Britain’s health secretary, told Sky News on Monday.
England has been in lockdown mode since late December, but people have been allowed to meet outside in groups of up to six people for a week. There are at least three more benchmark dates in the coming months before all legal limits on social contact are removed, hopefully by the end of June.
However, the plan to fully reopen the economy will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, as well as on the country’s vaccination program.
So far, more than 31 million people in the U.K. have received their first dose of a Covid-19 shot. Over 5 million people have now received their second vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to speak at 5pm U.K. time on Monday and outline plans for international travel rules.
At the moment, international travel is restricted until May 17. Reports suggest that once traveling abroad is allowed, quarantine rules will depend on a “traffic light system” – meaning that those traveling to countries on a “green” list will not be required to isolate upon their return to the U.K.
However, pre- and post-arrival testing is likely to remain in place, even when coming from a destination seen as low-risk.
The prime minister is also expected to reference coronavirus passports — documents that will state whether a person has been vaccinated, has recently tested negative for the coronavirus or has natural immunity.