Millions of UK critical workers could get priority Covid tests

Millions of critical workers in the UK could get priority Covid testing through their employers under a draft plan designed to tackle staff shortages.

Amid concerns over testing availability, ministers have drawn up a prioritisation list including health workers and those working in critical infrastructure.

The plan, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, is expected to be signed off by ministers early this week with pressure mounting on key services as schools return and services such as waste collection and transport resume normal schedules after the Christmas break.

A No 10 source confirmed there was a prioritisation plan drawn up but said there was no plan for imminent implementation, saying they believed the plans for testing was robust, despite widespread difficulties with home deliveries and pharmacy supplies of lateral flow tests.

It comes after the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing called for health staff to be prioritised for rapid tests to ease staffing issues.

Millions of testing kits are to be delivered to schools this week and headteachers can already order via a channel for pupils and staff to test twice a week.

However, critical businesses including police, transport workers and haulage could also be given access to priority testing under the plans. An unprecedented demand for tests has been driven by the government allowing vaccinated people out of self-isolation if they show repeated negative lateral flow test results after a week, and among those stocking up on kits before New Year’s Eve events.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK’s testing programme is the biggest in Europe and record numbers are being delivered to pharmacies, homes and those who need them.


“The NHS has additional stock of lateral flow tests and those who live or work in vulnerable settings have access to dedicated testing order routes. If at some point it is necessary to do so we will always prioritise protecting the most vulnerable as well as critical workforces, as we have done throughout the pandemic when it comes to vaccines, boosters, testing and other infection control measures such as PPE.”

The minister for vaccines and public health, Maggie Throup, said she was not sure how many Britons were currently in self-isolation.

She told Sky News: “I’m not sure of that [actual] figure, but I think what’s shown over Christmas is that a lot of people have caught the disease, the Omicron variant is very transmissible, but what is good news, it doesn’t seem to be resulting in severe diseases as some of the other variants did.”


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