Thousands of critical workers, from delivery staff to nursery workers, could be asked to take daily lateral flow tests from today as the government tries to limit Omicron outbreaks in workplaces.
As part of efforts to keep many essential services running, the government is asking 100,000 staff across a number of sectors to take a daily test for at least the next month.
With the Omicron variant continuing to spread rapidly across the UK there are ongoing concerns that workplaces will struggle to operate if large numbers of staff contract the highly-contagious variant of the virus.
To keep essential services and supply chains running thousands of critical workers - identified by the government and their employers - will be asked to take a daily lateral flow test on every working day for an initial five week period.
It is hoped this will help to identify and isolate asymptomatic cases before those who are contagious spread it further among those they work with.
The full range of critical workers has been identified by the relevant government departments with organisations affected being contacted directly to ensure the roll out of the scheme among their most essential staff.
While the UK Health Security Agency has not confirmed the full list of those critical staff chosen, sectors and employees identified on the GOV.UK website as being essential to the running of the country include the postal service, oil, gas, water and electricity companies, police, fire and armed forces personnel, prison staff, nursery employees and social workers, religious staff and charities delivering frontline services, workers involved in food production and delivery and those working in the the justice system.
Testing schemes will begin today with the lateral flow tests being allocated to the 100,000 staff chosen remaining separate from those allocated to other sectors who require them such as secondary schools and adult social care settings.
The supply of daily covid tests for critical workers will also remain separate to those delivered to pharmacies and homes in order to ensure these supply channels are also not affected by the roll out of the new scheme.
Around 600,000 packs of rapid lateral flow tests, each containing seven tests, are currently being delivered to homes every day in the UK - an increase of 50% on the week before says the UKHSA.