After successful pilots, including in Staffordshire, everyone in England will be given access to rapid coronavirus tests from Friday.
Previously, packs were restricted to anyone who lived with children or staff at nurseries, schools and college – but from tomorrow lateral flow kits, which provide results in 30 minutes, will be available for free at testing sites, pharmacies and through the post.
Dr Richard Harling, Staffordshire County Council’s director of health and care, said: "The Prime Minister has confirmed the next step of the roadmap will take place from Monday, which is welcome news. This means many businesses and leisure facilities will be able to reopen which we are all looking forward to.
“With these new relaxed regulations and additional activities permitted it is even more important for us all to get tested regularly even if you have no symptoms.
“We are urging everybody to get tested twice a week and make it part of a regular weekly routine. This way we can identify cases quickly and isolate them as soon as possible, preventing larger outbreaks and a spike in Covid cases which could de-rail our path along the roadmap and out of the pandemic.
“Don’t give up on our good work now – continue to follow hands, face, space, fresh air, and make sure to take up the option to get tested twice a week which best suits you.”
Stephen Gunther, director of public health at Walsall Council, said: “This is a call to action. We recommend everyone gets tested twice a week. Even if you've been vaccinated, still continue to get tested regularly.
"The more people we test the more we know who are infected and who can then self-isolate – which means fewer people are spreading the virus in Walsall.
“Testing is free, quick to do and the people can either test at home, or if preferred visit one of the community and pharmacy symptom free testing sites. There are lots of good reasons to get tested and keep yourself, your family and others safe.
“Regular testing will help to find cases that would otherwise have gone undetected. This is a pivotal point in trying to get back to normal.
"Testing, alongside following the rules of hands, face, space, fresh air and getting a test if you have Covid-19 symptoms, and self-isolating if that test is positive all remain critical behaviours to keep reducing the rate of infection and protect one another.”
Wolverhampton’s director of public health, John Denley, added: “Free rapid testing is widely available across the city at community testing sites, in workplaces and at home for secondary and college students. Getting into the habit of twice-weekly testing as part of our everyday lives will help us all play our part and do what we can to keep each other safe.
“From Friday, access to testing is being expanded further with local pharmacies signing up to offer pharmacy collect. When launched, anyone over 18 will be able to go to participating pharmacies and pick up a free box of tests to use at home.
"Home test kits will also be available from Ashmore Park, Civic Offices and Pendeford Library.”
People with symptoms of coronavirus should still self-isolate and book a test by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or ring 119.
Karen Wright, director of public health at Dudley Council, said: “Home testing kits have already been made available to parents and carers since schools went back in early March and I’m pleased we are now going to be able to roll this out to everyone else.
“They are vital in helping to track down hidden cases as we know one in three of us will not show symptoms.
“By being able to test at home, it offers people the convenience to do it at a time that suits them best and avoid an additional unnecessary journey.
“They will be available from Friday to order online for postal delivery, and we are hoping they will also be available in borough pharmacies within the next two weeks.
“In the meantime, or indeed if people prefer once the home testing kits are available, people can still go to one of the symptom free testing sites.
“The tests are for everyone – even if you have been vaccinated, you are still at risk of passing the virus on to someone else.
“That is why it is critical that we all take advantage of twice weekly testing and, most importantly, to download the results.
“The instructions to do this are very straightforward and it will help us understand the number of cases in Dudley so that we can keep working together to protect our residents, families and friends.”