Britain on Wednesday approved using a COVID-19 self-test kit endorsed by its state-run health service to detect asymptomatic cases, as it mulls further restrictions to stem the spread of a highly infectious variant of the virus. The government has said it wants to start mass testing people as part of its strategy for tracking and tracing infections with cases spiking and as it battles the new variant.
It had launched a mass-testing pilot scheme in the northwest city of Liverpool in November, offering everyone tests whether or not they had symptoms, in an attempt to find a new way to use testing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that the kit uses an antigen lateral flow test (antigen LFT), which can give results in 30 minutes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a "world-beating" national test-and-trace system earlier this year, whereby people with symptoms get tested and the contacts of positive cases are asked to self-isolate. But the broader NHS Test and Trace system has been heavily criticised following a series of high-profile failures since its launch earlier this year, and government ministers have conceded it has not performed as well as they had hoped.
Britain also began testing truckers for COVID-19 on Wednesday as Paris and London agreed that drivers carrying a negative test result could board ferries for Calais after much of the world shut its borders to Britain to contain the new mutated variant.