At yesterday's Downing Street daily coronavirus briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that all key workers and their families would now be able to book a coronavirus test, if they had symptoms.
The move was announced as Mr Hancock increased testing capacity from 40,000 to 51,000 – with plans still to reach 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
It’s part of a plan the government have put in place to ‘test, track and trace’, the virus – in order to observe the spread and hopefully, reduce it.
But who counts as a key worker – and if you are one, how can you now book a COVID-19 test?
Who qualifies as an essential worker?
The Health Secretary made clear that, at the moment, tests are being prioritised for key workers and their families.
Key workers are the people who, some weeks ago when schools were closed, were told they could still send their children to school if they needed to continue working during the lockdown.
There is an extensive list of who counts as an essential worker during the pandemic on the government website – which you can find here.
But briefly, the list includes:
- frontline health and social care staff, and support workers for that sector – doctors, nurses, cleaners etc
- those supplying the health and social care industry
- transport workers
- local authority staff
- public safety and national security staff e.g police
- public service broadcast journalists
- supermarket workers
How to book a COVID-19 test
You can only book a test if you are a key worker with coronavirus symptoms, and/or if one of your family members (people living in your household) presents with symptoms of the coronavirus.
This includes a fever (high temperature), and a continuous cough. Officials say testing is most effective within three days of noticing symptoms.
If you are self-isolating, you can book a test here, via the gov.uk portal.
However, it’s important to be aware that since the new testing measures for key workers were announced, the above link has only been working intermittently since it opened.
Key workers who want/need to be tested can choose to visit a regional test-site drive-through appointment, or to be sent a home test kit. However, the government advise that you visit a drive-through test site if you can, as the availability of home tests kits is limited.
Essential workers can also be referred for a test by their employer if they are self-isolating. If they are, workers will receive a text message so that they can book the test themselves.
The government states that they aim to have 50 test sites open by the end of April. The idea is that key workers will not have to drive more than 45 minutes to be tested.
When you have been tested, they aim to return test results within 48 hours of a swab being taken, or within 72 hours for a home test.
What is the COVID-19 test like?
The test involves a swab being taken of the nose and the back of the throat – with many who have already had the test explaining that the swab needs to reach fairly high up your nose.
The test can be done by the person being tested on themselves, or by someone else.