The UK Government has said that regular asymptomatic testing ‘will be paused in all remaining settings’ from 31 August.
The announcement comes as Covid cases continue to fall and will mean a cessation of testing in settings such as hospitals and care homes. Testing for individuals with symptoms in these settings, including health and social care staff, will continue, and immunocompromised patients in hospitals and people being admitted into care homes and hospices will also continue to be tested.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Thanks to the success of our world-leading vaccination roll-out, we are able to continue living with Covid and, from 31 August, we will pause routine asymptomatic testing in most high-risk settings.
“This reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed. Those being admitted into care homes will continue to be tested.
“Our upcoming autumn booster programme will offer jabs to protect those at greatest risk from severe Covid, and I urge everyone who is eligible to take up the offer.”
Settings where asymptomatic testing of staff and patients or residents will be paused include: the NHS (including independent health care providers treating NHS patients); adult social care and hospice services (apart from new admissions); parts of the prison estate and some places of detention; and certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.
Individuals will continue to be protected through vaccination and access to antivirals where eligible, and the government continues to encourage all who are eligible to take up boosters. Autumn boosters will be available to book through the National Booking Service ahead of the wider rollout, due to start on 12 September. The NHS will contact people when it is their turn.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Covid case rates and hospitalisations are on the decline, demonstrating the positive impact of the vaccines, which remain our best form of defence. The data from our surveillance shows prevalence is low and decreasing, and we will continue to monitor this data closely.”
The UK Government expects the prevalence of Covid to remain low following the most recent wave but will keep the situation under review. In line with the Living with Covid plan, the government will continue to work closely with sectors and services and will be ready to resume testing if required.
Free testing for the public ended on 1 April as part of the government’s Living with Covid plan, but asymptomatic testing continued to be used in some settings during periods of high case rates.