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Regular Asymptomatic Testing Paused in Additional Settings

Regular asymptomatic testing for Covid in all remaining settings in England will be paused from 31 August, as Covid cases continue to fall.

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, including care homes during periods of high case rates.

The vaccination programme means Covid cases have now fallen to 40,027 and the risk of transmission has reduced. Deaths have fallen to 744 and hospitalisations to 6,005 in the last seven days, meaning wider asymptomatic testing can soon end as planned in most instances.
Symptomatic testing in high risk settings will continue.

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.

Testing will remain in place for admissions into care homes and hospices from both hospitals and the community, and for transfers for immunocompromised patients into and within hospital to protect those who are most vulnerable.

Testing will also be available for outbreaks in certain high-risk settings such as care homes.

Year-round symptomatic testing will continue to be provided in some settings, including:
• NHS patients who require testing as part of established clinical pathways or those eligible for Covid treatments;
• NHS staff and staff in NHS-funded independent healthcare provision;
• Staff in adult social care services and hospices and residents of care homes, extra care and supported living settings and hospices;
• Staff and detainees in prisons; and
• Staff and service users of certain domestic abuse refuges and homelessness services.

Individuals will continue to be protected through vaccination and access to antivirals where eligible.

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.”

Responding to the Government’s announcement Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“NHS leaders will put their faith in the experts that this decision is the right one but after over two years of the pandemic, they know that it doesn’t take much for cases to increase again and that much of the spread of coronavirus previously, including within healthcare settings, was from people who were asymptomatic.

“As services gear up for rolling out the autumn boosters from next month, members have also reflected that the timing of this policy change could downplay how serious Covid still is and could undermine messages around the need to get vaccinated.

“This comes as the NHS is planning for what is widely expected to be the busiest winter on record with a triple threat of Covid, flu and norovirus and against a backdrop of 105,000 vacancies, crumbling estate, rising treatment backlogs and an under-supported social care sector.

“While the policy change could free up capacity within hospital and other services, it remains vital that the experts keep this position under close review and if needed, be prepared to revise it.”