A quick (rapid flow) coronavirus test could allow nightclubs and theater venues to reopen, suggests Boris Johnson.
The PM said “rapid” lateral flow tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”.
“That, combined with vaccination, could be a way forward,” he told a Downing Street press conference.
But he stressed it was “still early days”, with “lots of discussions still to be had”.
Long Way To Go
A government source said: “We still have a long way to go before we can bring people back to major events safely.”
Nightclubs have failed to function since Covid forced a first shut down in March 2020, while many theatres have struggled to make social distancing work.
It comes as Mr Johnson said people should be “optimistic but patient” about the end of coronavirus restrictions in England.
He said the steps taken to reduce the locks should be “cautious but not fixable” before next week’s road lift can be removed.
What Are The Experts Saying?
Policy Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government favoured testing over vaccine passports as a means to reopen the economy, since it is not yet clear whether a vaccinated individual can transmit the virus.
Mr Zahawi described preliminary evidence on the effect of vaccines on coronavirus transmission as “really encouraging”, but told the BBC the full data might not be available for weeks.
“We have a few great lessons related to giving us better information about vaccines,” Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
“We should be able to see really good data in the next few weeks from those studies.”
Michael Kill, president of the Night Time Industries Association, said doing quick tests would not be straightforward, even if it was the way venues such as nightclubs were allowed to reopen.
He told the BBC that professionals would be required to administer swab tests outside the venue, where clubbers would need to wait for at least 15 minutes to get a negative result before being allowed in.
About Rapid Flow Tests
Lateral flow tests have the great advantage of not having to be submitted to a laboratory for analysis, unlike the more expensive PCR tests used by the NHS Test & Trace.
They work by inserting a swab into the nose and throat in a special solution and then inserting the liquid into a plastic rod – similar to a pregnancy test.
During a testing pilot in Liverpool, the devices picked up two-thirds of the most infectious cases.
But the study found the devices only picked up 40% of all cases – fewer than expected.
The tests may miss people in the day or two before they are about to become infectious.
Mr Kill said allowing revellers to perform tests the day before or under the supervision of a professional over a video call could make the process less onerous.
Nevertheless, he welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement.
“Finally we have some acknowledgement from the prime minister and government on the existence of late-night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Sacha Lord, founder of Manchester’s Parklife Festival, said the event industry had been “disrupted for the past eleven months”, adding that further delays in implementing programs such as rapid site inspections would do “irreparable” damage to UK culture.
COVID Cases In The UK
UK recorded another 9,765 new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to the latest government figures. This is the first time that the number of daily cases has been less than 10,000 since October 2.
Another 230 deaths were recorded within 28 days of a positive examination. Few deaths are usually reported on Monday due to a lack of reporting over the weekend.