Britons are being urged to book a virus test whenever they feel unwell under plans to alter the nation’s mindset on testing.
Baroness Harding, chairman of the test and trace programme, has promised to make testing more accessible to the public with the rollout of 200 new walk-in centres.
She has pledged that the Government will be carrying out half a million tests by the end of October, up from a current maximum of just over 300,000.
But she also urged the public to play their part by dropping the ‘classic British attitude’ of going to work with a Lemsip when they feel unwell and hoping that their symptoms will improve.
People have been urged to drop the ‘classic British attitude’ of going to work when they feel unwell and are instead asked to book themselves in for a test and stay home (file photo)
Instead, anyone who feels slightly under the weather – even if they do not have the classic virus cough or temperature – should book themselves in for a test and stay at home, she said.
Baroness Harding also promised that by the end of October, the majority of those living in cities and towns will be within a 30-minute walk of a testing centre.
There are just 15 of these currently but the Department of Health is planning to increase this to at least 200 in locations including public gardens, next to shopping centres and in community areas.
Baroness Harding has also committed to carrying out 150,000 ‘asymptomatic’ tests a day by September on those who aren’t showing any signs of the virus.
To try to boost testing rates further, the Government yesterday launched a major TV advertising campaign to highlight the importance of going and getting a swab.
The Government’s 60-second advert – which features the country first in lockdown and then returning to normal – ends with the message: ‘So let’s get tested and get back to the things we love.’
Research by the Department of Health has suggested that there is a long way to go to convince people to get tested as polls have shown that half of adults do not realise that they are eligible for a test.
Many still assume the swabs are restricted to key workers or NHS staff even though the criteria was widely expanded in mid-May to include all adults and children with any virus symptoms.
Baroness Harding, chairman of the test and trace programme, said the Government will carry out half a million tests by the end of October, up from a current maximum of just over 300,000
Baroness Harding stressed that anyone who felt unwell should get a test, even if they do not have the typical coronavirus symptoms of a cough or temperature.
She said: ‘When you talk to people who have had Covid it can start in different ways and for a lot of people they just feel rubbish for a few days. It’s at that point that we want them to get tested as that’s when they’ll be infectious.
‘We want to widen the net as much as possible so it really is if you feel a bit rubbish, come and get a test.
‘It feels counter-intuitive – the classic British attitude of not feeling quite right is take a Lemsip but carry on. Actually it’s the opposite of that and we need to make people realise that it’s free. If you feel a bit rubbish, go and get a test.
‘It’s so deeply ingrained in people to not grumble, take the Lemsip and carry on. Anyone with young children will know that if they’ve got a temperature, you give them some Calpol and they bounce straight back.’
She said the public need to book in or order a Covid test which is ‘such a different way of thinking to how we’ve ever had in our lives’. She added: ‘We’ll still be talking about the same things in three or four months because you don’t acquire a new habit instantly.
Baroness Harding also promised to make testing more accessible to the public with the rollout of 200 new walk-in centres. Pictured, a walk-in testing centre in Oldham, Greater Manchester
‘We’ve got to win people’s hearts and minds – this isn’t just a clinical exercise it’s how we get our society up and running. It’s a strange old thing but the way we do that is going and getting tested.
‘The prize is getting back to doing the stuff we love doing and shifting that tone, that’s actually the way we will get back to it.’
Baroness Harding committed to carrying out 150,000 ‘asymptomatic’ tests a day by September on people who aren’t showing any signs of the virus.
These are likely to mostly involve NHS staff and workers in high risk occupations such as taxi drivers, sales assistants and cleaners who are being encouraged to get swabbed at random.
But despite Baroness Harding’s ambitions, the latest figures show that the test and trace programme is still far from optimal.
Nearly a quarter of those who came into close contact with someone who tested positive with the virus could not be reached by tracers and told to self-isolate – possibly because they did not answer phone calls or check emails.
This number is higher than the previous week when just 21.6 per cent could not be reached. Any of these individuals could potentially be spreading the virus.