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 as staff shortages surge in the UK due to the Omicron variant.

The draft plan has been designed to tackle staff shortages with ministers drawing up a prioritisation list including health workers and those working in critical infrastructure.

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.

A Downing Street source confirmed there was a prioritisation plan drawn up but said there were no plan for imminent implementation. They added that they believed the plans for testing are currently robust, despite widespread difficulties with home deliveries and pharmacy supplies of lateral flow tests.

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.”