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National Education Union welcomes government pledge of free Covid-19 tests for essential workers

“ESSENTIAL” workers will be able to book free coronavirus tests for themselves and their families online from tomorrow, the government has announced.

During the daily Downing Street press conference today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the tests will be available for booking on the government’s website.

People who cannot go online will be able to apply through their employer or travel to one of the 30 test sites across the UK.

The result of a test will be sent out by text message.

The toll of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus has increased by 4,583 to 138,078. A total of 638 more hospital deaths linked to Covid-19 have been recorded, taking the toll to 18,738.

The newest promise of free tests comes after the government was criticised for failing to use even half of the 40,000 daily testing capacity.

Ministers were on course to fail to hit the government’s own target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.

Mr Hancock has also announced that 18,000 contact tracing staff will be recruited by “a matter of weeks”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Yesterday we urged the government to do more testing and we have consistently questioned why ministers were not moving to a test and trace strategy.

“It is welcome ministers now recognise the importance of testing and tracing. It is crucial that greater numbers of critical workers such as care staff are now able to access testing. 

“We will continue to hold the government to account for the promise it has made of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the announcement that essential workers such as school staff will be able to access tests, but warned against any more backsliding on promises.

He added: “It is essential that staff who are self-isolating at home get immediate access to the test.

“The UK has been in lockdown for exactly one month, during which time our members have worked to keep schools running for children of key workers and the most vulnerable pupils.

“Our call for testing has been unceasing. The government has been slow to respond, and there will be a fear amongst school staff that this promise will follow the pattern of previous pledges to contain the virus.

“Our members will not tolerate dither and delay. They need certainty and, from the Health Secretary, swift action to make this promise a reality.”

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