A five-minute Covid test made in the UK could be the key to kick-starting the return of clubs, live sporting matches and concernts.
Yorkshire firm Avacta have developed a new super-fast lateral flow test which is understood to be in its last testing stage at the Government’s top-secret Porton Down lab.
The test’s developers say it is more accurate and faster than the US devices currently in use – and it could be announced in Boris Johnson‘s highly-anticipated ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown plans on Monday.
The PM is poised to allow pubs to serve people outdoors from April – although not indoors until May – with two households of any size able to meet outdoors.
But for the live entertainment industry, the road to normality is set to be much longer due to the risk of transmission that comes hand-in-hand with large crowds.
It is hoped that five-minute rapid testing – which is much shorter than the 30-minute option available currently – will be used on admission to large events.
Yorkshire firm Avacta (its CEO Alastair Smith, pictured) have developed a new super-fast lateral flow test which is understood to be in its last testing stage at the Government’s top-secret Porton Down lab
It is hoped that five-minute rapid testing – which is much shorter than the 30-minute option available currently – will be used on admission to large events (file image)
Chief executive of UK Music Jamie Njoku-Goodwin told The Mirror: ‘If approved and found to be effective, this test could be a game changer in the effort to rescue British live music and save our summer.’
But earlier this week, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers Steve Heap said looking for proof of a vaccine as admission will be a ‘clear and safe way’ to return to live venues – as rapid testing ‘will be very difficult to operate at the gate of a festival’.
Ministers this week urged the Government to introduce vaccine passports as a way to revive bars, pubs and restaurants in a bid to make the transition back to normality even quicker.
But these have been slammed as ‘unworkable’ by countless venues who claim their target market – 18 to 25 year olds – wont be able to get the jab until the Autumn.
Senior ministers are urging Mr Johnson to sanction official documents showing a person’s immunisation status as a way of getting clubs, cinemas and theatres reopened sooner.
But leaders in the entertainment industry say vaccine passports won’t help them claw back their pandemic loses in the peak summer season as their key demographic – under 25s – won’t be vaccinated much later in the year.
The Government’s ambitious jab programme aims to have every over-50 vaccinated by May.
But the other 21 million adults over the age of 18 and not clinically vulnerable are not scheduled to get the jab until October – after summer season where bars, pubs and clubs are usually at their busiest.
The Prime Minister is set to announce his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on Monday.
He is poised to allow more social mixing within weeks, providing a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of grandparents isolated from their grandchildren.
Ministers are looking at the data and a final decision on when the restrictions will be eased will be taken at the weekend.
It is thought the new plan could replace the ‘Rule of Six’ as entire families, regardless of size, are expected to be allowed to meet up in outside spaces.
From April, two households would be able to meet outdoors while gatherings of six people from six different households would also be acceptable.
Relatives who live further away from each other may have to wait a little longer for a reunion, as the future rules on travelling longer distances are still unclear. And in the case of those who do meet up, the two-metre rule is expected to remain in place for months to come.
The Prime Minister (pictured) is poised to allow more social mixing within weeks, providing a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of grandparents isolated from their grandchildren
It is thought the new plan could replace the ‘Rule of Six’ as entire families, regardless of size, are expected to be allowed to meet up in outside spaces. From April, two households would be able to meet outdoors while gatherings of six people from six different households would also be acceptable (file photo)
Welsh salons to reopen – but no luck for Brit barnets until April
Hairdressers may be able to open within four weeks – at the same time as non-essential shops – in Wales.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘If it is possible from March 15 to begin the reopening of some aspects of non-essential retail and personal services such as hairdressing then … that is what we would want to do.’
Hairdressers and barbers had been expected to reopen weeks after shops.
Mr Drakeford’s comments to BBC Breakfast will likely put more pressure on Boris Johnson to do the same in England.
He also announced on Friday that children aged between three and seven will return to schools from Monday, with further pupils joining by mid-March if conditions allow.
Lockdown restrictions, which have been in place in Wales since December 20, will also be slightly eased to allow four people from two different households to exercise together.
Mr Johnson is set to meet senior ministers tomorrow to hammer out the final details. The committee will examine the latest data on the impact of lockdown and the vaccine rollout, so they can decide how quickly to lift restrictions.
Cabinet will then rubber stamp the plans on Monday morning, before they are revealed to the Commons that afternoon.
The blueprint is likely to see schools return on March 8 along with more relaxed rules on outdoor exercise; the return of outdoor sports like golf and tennis at the end of next month and non-essential shops opening soon after Easter.
Pubs and restaurants may also be able to serve people outdoors from April – although not indoors until May.
Ahead of revealing his roadmap out of lockdown, Mr Johnson has also been urged to allow pubs to reopen as soon as possible.
Beer sales in pubs dropped by 56 per cent in 2020, a decrease of £7.8billion, due to Covid-19 restrictions and the lockdowns, according to British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures.
Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, believes that pubs should reopen alongside non-essential retail once the most vulnerable in society have been vaccinated, as they have a community role.
She said: ‘The Great British Pub has always been more than just a place to drink. It is where we go to connect. It is where we go to form community.’
There are also fears over workers being made homeless as tens of thousands of pubs are small family businesses which also double up as someone’s home, the BBPA said.
Meanwhile, the co-founder of fast food chain Leon said this morning it is ‘quite plausible’ the company will not exist if the ‘weeks and months drag on’.
John Vincent told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘About 235 businesses a week are going under. It’s not being reported, it’s not being understood.
‘We served 1million meals as to the NHS, a million meals to frontline ITU teams.
‘If we don’t exist, which is quite plausible if the weeks and months drag on, we can’t even do the basics of what we did to feed a million meals to frontline teams. ‘Businesses are at the heart of a functioning, healthy society. I would say: Produce the analysis, inform yourself and take the whole picture into account for the good of society.’
It means friends and family could be able to see each other again in time for the Easter holidays. The Prime Minister will spend the weekend putting the finishing touches to his long-awaited roadmap, before he announces it on Monday (file image)
A Whitehall source said rules around how many people they can spend time with outdoors will be relaxed. Ministers are looking at the data and a final decision on when the restrictions will be eased will be taken at the weekend. Pictured, people out in Scotland last July
‘So that’s money that isn’t going into the economy, it’s not going into the wallets of people that work at Leon, and it’s not going to pay the taxes that we need to pay.
‘So that absolutely costs lives and its quite disappointing that the government hasn’t produced in any way… if you magnify that.
Five-minute Covid test could spark opening of nightclubs, gigs and cinemas
Nightclubs, theatres and sporting events could reopen thanks to a five-minute coronavirus test, scientists have revealed.
Yorkshire biotech firm Avacta has developed a rapid test that could pave the way for the so-called Operation Moonshot, reported the Huffington Post.
The operation is a plan to reopen thousands of clubs and theatres across Britain.
The new Avacta test has more rapid and accurate results than the American devices currently in use.
Boris Johnson is already set to announce the use of lateral flow tests, which take 30 minutes, in his roadmap to reopen Britain.
But these five-minute devices could make entry to venues much quicker.
‘No one has asked us these numbers. So how does the Government even know what is going on in the economy?’
It comes as the Government was last night forced to deny that Chris Whitty feels ‘very unhappy’ about plans for a ‘big bang’ reopening of schools on March 8.
Downing Street knocked down claims the chief medical officer has concerns a full return – rather than a staggered approach call for by unions – will cause a spike in infections.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made clear his ambition for all 10 million schoolchildren and staff to return on March 8. The children would be tested for coronavirus twice a week in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
But education sources told The Guardian Mr Whitty was ‘very unhappy’ with the plan. Some officials are concerned a mass return will both rise infection rates and pose problems with administering covid tests to pupils.
Both ministers and senior advisers want Mr Whitty to publicly back a full return, but he is said to be ‘lukewarm’.
A Department for Education source last night branded the claim ‘absolute b******t’. A government source also said the claim was ‘categorically untrue’.
SAGE have modelled the impact of sending all children back to school at once, against a staggered year-by-year approach.
They believe that sending all children back to school at once will inevitably lead to a slightly bigger rise in the R value than only a smaller number of children.
However, Government scientists have stressed that it is up to ministers to weigh up these risks against the well-being of children.
Officials including Mr Whitty have repeatedly stressed the immense damage to children of staying at home target than being at school.
The slow opening is likely to anger hospitality chiefs who have demanded an accelerated lifting of restrictions, given the success of the vaccine rollout. It is as yet unclear when domestic staycations or travel around Britain will be allowed to resume.