The government has announced plans for everyone in England to be able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus testing from April 9, in a bid to further reduce the spread of the virus by capturing those that are carriers but symptom free.

In what it describes as “a significant step forward”, the government said the move will pave the way for businesses and society to reopen with regular tests to become the norm for all to help prevent the risk of coronavirus outbreaks; rapid testing has thus far only been available to those most at risk and people who need to leave home for work.

One in three people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus without knowing it. Rapid testing will allow for positive cases to be isolated much more quickly, breaking the chain of transmission.

According to the government, since rapid testing was introduced, over 120,000 positive cases that would not have been found otherwise have already been identified by rapid lateral flow devices (LFDs).

It also said that recent analysis from NHS Test and Trace shows that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result.

“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly,” noted health secretary Matt Hancock.

“These tests are effective in detecting people that are infectious and therefore most likely to transmit infection to others. They are another tool we now have to help maintain lower infection rates,” added Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response director at PHE and chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace.