Rapid testing for COVID-19 could enable nightclubs and theatres in the UK to reopen, the Prime Minister has suggested
Boris Johnson has said that rapid testing using lateral flow COVID-19 tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”.
“That, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” he said during a coronavirus press conference at Downing Street.
But he stressed that it was “still early days” with “lots of discussions still to be had”.
A government source said: “There is a long way to go before we can get people back at big events safely.”
Nightclubs in the UK have been unable to operate since the first nation-wide coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, while many theatres in the country have struggled to make the necessary social distancing restrictions work.
This comes after 15 million people in the UK have been vaccinated for the coronavirus, with everyone in the top four of the UK’s priority groups having been offered a vaccine for COVID-19, the nation’s health secretary has now confirmed.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that people must be “optimistic but patient” about an end to the current coronavirus restrictions in place across England.
He said that the steps taken to ease the national lockdown should be “cautious but irreversible” ahead of next week’s release of a supposed roadmap for lifting the curbs.
Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s Vaccines minister, told LBC that the government would be relying on rapid testing and “making people access their own personal vaccination records” on the NHS contact tracing app, rather than issuing coronavirus vaccine passports.
Asked about any measures that could make it possible to attend cinemas and hospitality venues, he said that the vaccine passports were not the best suited as “we don’t know if an individual vaccinated can still transmit the virus” and said that it was “much better to look at rapid testing”.
The head of the Night Time Industries Association, Michael Kill, said that administering these rapid COVID-19 tests will not be simple, even if it is the way for UK venues such as nightclubs to be allowed to reopen.
He said to the BBC that professionals would be required to administer swab tests outside of venues, where night-club-goers would be required to wait for at least 15 minutes to get a negative result before then being allowed to enter.
This comes after AstraZeneca has said that it is on course to roll out a vaccine for COVID-19 that is effective against new variants of the coronavirus by autumn of this year. The company, which had produced a COVID-19 vaccine alongside the University of Oxford, said that clinical trials for the next generation of vaccine would be commencing in the spring.
Mr Kill said allowing revellers to perform tests the day before or under the supervision of a professional over a video call could make the process less onerous.
Nevertheless, he welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement.
“Finally we have some acknowledgement from the prime minister and government on the existence of late night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic,” he said.