December 5, 2023

Two friends sit on the waterfront on a warm, sunny Easter Sunday at Chalkwell Beach on April 4, 2021 in Southend-on-Sea, England.

John Keeble | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON – Everyone in England can get two free Covid-19 tests each week as the UK government redoubles efforts to reopen the economy.

People living in England can order the tests online, which give results in around 30 minutes, or pick them up on site, the government announced on Monday. The program is slated to begin on Friday as the country prepares to reopen shops and pubs in less than 10 days. Most have been closed since the end of 2020.

“This is a very important step forward, another step that will help us to relax these restrictions and get life back to normal in this country,” UK Health Secretary Edward Argar told Sky News on Monday.

England has been on lockdown mode since the end of December, but people were allowed to meet outside in groups of up to six for a week. There will be at least three more benchmark dates in the coming months before all legal restrictions on social contact are lifted, hopefully by the end of June.

However, the plan to fully reopen the economy will depend on the development of the pandemic as well as the country’s vaccination program.

To date, more than 31 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 shot. Over 5 million people have now received their second vaccine.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak at 5:00 p.m. UK time on Monday and outline plans for international travel rules.

International travel is currently restricted until May 17th. Quarantine rules have reportedly been subject to a “traffic light system” once travel abroad is permitted. This means that those traveling to countries that are on a “green” list do not have to do so in isolation upon their return to the UK

However, pre- and post-arrival tests are likely to stay in place, even if they come from a destination that is classified as low risk.

The Prime Minister is also expected to refer to coronavirus passports – documents showing whether a person has been vaccinated, recently tested negative for the coronavirus, or has natural immunity.