The government’s plan to administer millions of daily tests in a bid to scrap social distancing restrictions is “still a long way off”, according to Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister last week unveiled his plan to eventually have everybody take coronavirus tests, which give a result in under an hour, each morning that show if someone is infectious with Covid-19.
Johnson said this would allow the government to drop social distancing restrictions and ensure places like cinemas, theatres, offices and stadiums could operate at 100 per cent capacity.
Leaked documents, seen by The Times, showed the government expected the programme to cost £100bn, which is almost an entire year’s NHS budget.
However, Johnson told Westminster’s Liaison Committee today that his “moonshot” would not be implemented for some time.
“To get people to sit cheek-by-jowl [in theatres] means we will need to have lateral flow testing of a kind we’re on the brink of getting,@ he said.
“We are a long way off, I’m afraid, or some way off having those instant pregnancy style, liberating tests that tell you whether you are infectious or not.
“That’s what we’re working for, the science is almost there.”
The plan to administer mass testing is seen as a way to boost consumer spending for the UK’s bricks and mortar businesses, which are suffering from a lack of footfall with many on the brink of collapse.
The country’s arts sector has also been badly hit as social distancing restrictions make it impossible for theatres to operate anywhere close to 100 per cent.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called central London’s half-empty streets a “big problem”, while also advocating for a more extensive testing programme.
The Prime Minister said his testing plan would give people the “confidence” to return to normality.
He said: “What we need to do is get back to a world where everybody meeting together to sing, to perform in a traditional way has a ticket to ride, the knowledge you are not infectious, that you have a green light on your head saying ‘I can’t transmit it to you’, so both the audiences and performers have that confidence.”