Everyone in England is to be offered free, twice-weekly coronavirus tests as ministers prepare for the next stage of easing lockdown restrictions.
The lateral flow tests – which can provide results in 30 minutes to an hour– will be available from Friday, regardless of whether people have symptoms.
The announcement comes as Boris Johnson is due to meet senior ministers on Monday to sign off the next stage of the road map out of lockdown.
People will be able to obtain a test through a home ordering service, workplace or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.
The Prime Minister said the scheme would help stop fresh outbreaks, enabling the authorities to identify and control new variants of the disease.
He said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our road map cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.
“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
Rapid testing to find asymptomatic people is not new, however up until Friday, only key workers and people unable to work from home have been encouraged to use the tests, due to limited supply.
Today, Mr Johnson will chair a virtual meeting of the Covid O committee before briefing the full Cabinet on the arrangements for the latest phase of lockdown lifting which will see non-essential shops in England reopen from April 12.
He will then set out the details at a Downing Street news conference where he is expected to say more about plans announced at the weekend for Covid certificates for mass gatherings from sporting events to nightclubs.
He will also outline the Government’s approach for lifting restrictions on holidays abroad starting from May 17.
Under the Government’s road map, pubs and restaurants will be able to start serving customers outdoors from next week while hairdressers, nail salons, gyms and libraries – as well as non-essential retail – will be able to reopen.