May 18, 2020 / 3:21 PM / 19 days ago

UK expands virus testing; anyone over five with symptoms now eligible

FILE PHOTO: A member of the military conducts a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) check-up at a drive-thru testing site in Chessington, London, Britain, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain expanded its testing scheme on Monday to allow anyone aged over five with COVID-19 symptoms to book a test to see if they have the virus, health minister Matt Hancock announced.

Hancock also said the government had recruited 21,000 staff to work for its tracing system designed to find those who have had contact with someone who has the coronavirus.

The expanded testing programme and track-and-trace system are key parts of Britain’s plan to move back to normality after a viral outbreak which has killed more 40,000 people.

“We now have the elements we need to roll out our national test and trace service: the testing capacity, the tracing capability and the technology. Building that system is incredibly important,” Hancock said.

Britain has already eased some of the restrictions implemented eight weeks ago to limit the spread of the virus, but remains on high alert in case the rate of transmission begins to increase.

If the number of cases continues to fall, Britain hopes to begin re-opening schools and other parts of its shuttered economy over the coming months.

Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison

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