British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to roll out rapid, pregnancy-style COVID tests to provide a “freedom passport” for Christmas parties and mass events.
The only problem is that nobody knows yet if the tests, which are designed to deliver a result in 15 minutes, will actually work.
As Britain battles a surge in cases that has sparked fears the entire country could face a second lockdown, the “moonshot” option has been raised as a method to allow COVID-free citizens to return to work and normal life.
Mr Johnson, who barely survived his own bout of COVID-19 earlier this year that left him fighting for his life in intensive care, outlined the “freedom passport” plan in London on Thursday.
He predicted the mass testing could deliver millions of Londoners the “freedom to mingle” if they don’t have COVID.
“I talked just now about how you could do that. Through that moonshot of daily testing – everybody gets a pregnancy-style test, a rapid turnaround test in the morning, 15 minutes later you know whether you are infectious or not.
“You may not know whether you are infected or not, but you know whether you are infectious, or not, and that gives you a kind of passport, a freedom to mingle with everybody else who is similarly not infectious in a way that is currently impossible.
“We are aiming for that. We are driving for that. As I have said … we cannot be 100 per cent sure that we can deliver that in its entirety.”
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On Sunday, the UK confirmed 2988 new coronavirus cases – the highest number since May 23.
Mr Johnson held his first coronavirus press briefing in six weeks on Thursday, confirming tough new rules on gatherings that limit people to a group of just six inside and outside. The rules even apply to gyms.
That’s left many wondering what sort of Christmas larger families face who cannot welcome relatives without breaking the law.
During the press briefing, ITV journalist Robert Peston questioned what happens if the rule of six is still in place by Christmas.
“Is Christmas now effectively cancelled?’’ he asked.
Mr Johnson defended the new rules being put in place “to prevent another wholesale national lockdown”.
“Whether we are going to get things back to normal at all by Christmas, I’m still hopeful, as I’ve said before, that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas,’’ Mr Johnson said.
Authorities are concerned as winter approaches that COVID-19 infections could spike again in Britain.
The rules on gatherings represent the biggest reversal of the relaxation of restrictions in the UK this year.
“You must not meet socially in groups of more than six,’’ Mr Johnson said.
“And, if you do, you will be breaking the law.”
“The ban will be set out in law and it will be enforced by the police – anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested.
“The reason that we’re doing this, as I said earlier on, is to prevent another wholesale national lockdown of the kind that we had in March. That is the objective,’’ he said.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the new restrictions were a sign that the British Government had lost control of the virus battle.
“I think the government’s now acknowledged that their poor communications were a large part of the problem so that’s got to be fixed,” he said.
“But we support the principle of the measures and we ask everybody to follow those rules.”