The UK government is to trial routine weekly Covid testing of the population as part of preparations to head off a possible winter second wave, as the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt called for such tests to become the norm.
The funding package will support trials of a 20-minute Covid-19 test and efforts to explore the benefits of repeatedly testing people for the virus, the Health Secretary announced.
Money will go towards launching a new community-wide repeat population testing trial in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Weekly testing of teachers is also set to be trialled as part of preparations for routine checks on people with no symptoms.
Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a no-swab saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test, will also be expanded through the new funding.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Testing is a vital line of defence in combating this pandemic.
“Over the past six months we have built almost from scratch one of the biggest testing systems in the world.
“We need to use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing, and build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus and enable more of the things that make life worth living.
“We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said saliva-based testing will be used for the pilot in Salford, which will involve the city council and other local partners.
A select number of residents will be invited for a weekly test, with the pilot performing up to 250 tests a day.