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Early years practitioners to be offered free COVID-19 tests

By Rachel LawlerMatt Hancock coronavirus testing early years staff

Early years staff experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be able to access free coronavirus tests, alongside other 'essential workers', the health secretary has announced.

Matthew Hancock announced the development at the government's daily briefing on the coronavrius crisis and said that members of essential worker households would also be able to access the tests if needed.

The definition for 'essential worker' will be based the same list as used to determine which families have continued access to education. This includes early years practitioners, childminders and teachers.

From today onwards employers of essential workers will be able to book tests online and the scheme will be opened up for employees themselves to book the tests tomorrow.

Hancock said: "This applies for all people in essential workers' households too who need a test. It's all part of getting Britain back on her feet."

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, welcomed the news. He said: “Childcare professionals, like many other key workers, continue to put themselves at risk in order to ensure that care is available to vulnerable and key worker children at this difficult time.

"It is absolutely right therefore that the government prioritises testing for key workers with symptoms to enable them to clarify their medical status, and ensure that they are not kept away from their vital roles due to potentially unnecessary self-isolation.

"Of course, as with all such announcements, the devil is in the detail. With a limited number of testing sites currently in operation, it remains to be seen how easy it will be for key workers like childcare practitioners to access tests. 
"Nevertheless, this is a positive step and one that we hope will go at least some way to addressing the staffing challenges that some settings have been facing." 
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