Key workers and families can now get a free coronavirus test - here’s who is eligible and how to book

All key workers and their families in England are now eligible for coronavirus testing, the Health Secretary has announced.

Around 10 million key workers - and members of their household - can now book a swab test online via the government’s website from Friday (24 Apr), with testing having previously only been available to health workers.

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Who is eligible for the test?

Testing has now been extended to all key workers in England with symptoms, and members of the same household who have symptoms.

The move marks a huge expansion of the people eligible for testing as the government moves towards its target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of April.

It also means key workers can find out whether they have coronavirus, enabling them to return to work if they test negative.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the news at the daily Downing Street press conference on Thursday (23 Apr), stating: “We can make it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test.

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“Any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on themselves directly.

“This applies for people in essential workers’ households too, who need a test.

“It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”

As well as key workers, the government has extending testing to all frontline workers in health and social care, and NHS patiensts and residents in care homes, regardless of whether they are not displaying symptoms.

People aged over 65 and members of their households can also get tested if they are showing symptoms, as well as anyone who goes into work because they cannot work from home and their households if they have symptoms.

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Who is classed as a key worker?

This is who is classed as a key worker, according to the government:

- NHS and social care staff, including:

- doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and

- social care staff including volunteers

- the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector

- those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines, and medical and personal protective equipment

- Essential public services staff, including:

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- prisons, probation, courts and tribunals staff, judiciary

- religious staff

- charities and workers delivering critical frontline services

- those responsible for the management of the deceased

- journalists and broadcasters covering coronavirus or providing public service broadcasting

- Public safety and national security staff, including:

- police and support staff

- Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of critical defence and national security outputs and critical to the response to the coronavirus pandemic)

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- fire and rescue service employees (including support staff),

- National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas

- Transport workers, including:

- those who keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus response

- those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass

- Education and childcare workers, including:

- support and teaching staff

- social workers

- specialist education professionals

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- Critical personnel in the production and distribution of food, drink and essential goods, including:

- those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery

- those critical to the provision of other essential goods, such as medical supply chain and distribution workers, including veterinary medicine

- workers critical to the continuity of essential movement of goods

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- Local and national government staff critical to the effective delivery of the coronavirus response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits

- Public and environmental health staff, including in government agencies and arm’s length bodies

- Frontline local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers

- Utilities, communication and financial services staff, including:

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- staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks,

- building societies and financial market infrastructure)

- the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)

- information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus response

- essential staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 essential services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors

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What does the test involve?

The test involves taking a swab from the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves, or by someone else.

Testing is most effective within three days of symptoms developing.

How can I book a test?

Key workers who are self-isolating can book a test directly.

There is the option to select a regional test site drive-through appointment, or home test kit.

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Home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available, but there is good availability of regional test sites, so the government advises selecting this option if you can.

Alternatively, key workers can book a test through their employer.

Employers can refer key workers who are self-isolating, either because they or members of their household have coronavirus symptoms, for testing.

The employer referral portal is a secure for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating key workers.

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If referred through this portal, key workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves, if they are symptomatic, or their symptomatic household members at a regional testing site.

To obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email [email protected] with two email addresses that will primarily be used to load essential worker contact details.

Once employer details have been verified, two login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.