Smaller workplaces in England will be given access to rapid Covid testing for those who cannot work from home, the government has confirmed.

Previously, only workplaces with more than 250 employees were able to access lateral flow tests, which produce a result in 30 minutes. Now, any business with more than 50 staff will be given access.

Stressing that firms should test their staff if they cannot work from home, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focusing testing on those without symptoms is so essential.”

Businesses looking to get their staff tested can register here.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the workplace tested, alongside the vaccine rollout, would “reopen the economy and recover our way of life as soon as it is safe to do so”.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said it would be “working hard to ensure that eligible businesses take up this opportunity”. However, there was some criticism from unions that argued a number of asymptomatic cases were missed during a mass trial in Liverpool.

Dan Shears, GMB union’s health, safety and environment director, said: “These rapid tests are not a magic bullet, and it is vital that employers understand the limitations and take steps to address them.

Labour welcomed the news but warned that more needed to be done to make workplaces safe. shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “So much more needs to be done to make workplaces Covid-secure including improving ventilation and upgraded PPE standards.

 

“This is even more important when the most recent data shows hundreds of outbreaks in workplaces since the start of January.”