Britain's "testing chiefs" are set to release an advertising campaign to encourage the public to "play their part" in beating the "last throes of the pandemic." The campaign will ask the public to test themselves using a self-test kit at least twice a week in a bid to ease the country out of lockdown.
The testing chiefs hope that more people with asymptomatic coronavirus cases can be identified by the medical system if the country's adult population voluntarily gets tested regularly. Public health officials believe this will further drive down the spread of COVID-19.
British news outlet The Times reported that this new voluntary testing drive will be supplemented by a program that will test and analyze the country's sewage systems for traces of the coronavirus. This will supposedly help the government spot spikes in COVID-19 cases in areas where fewer people are subjecting themselves to tests.
Once the voluntary testing is able to identify more cases in certain areas across the country, the government will then quickly step in with "surge testing," or mass testing. Government releases have stated that surge testing has successfully been used in areas with higher levels of "new variants" of the coronavirus. (Related: New, more transmissible coronavirus variant from the Philippines detected in the UK.)
Officials within the country's ruling Conservative Party are touting the combination of voluntary testing, national sewage monitoring and surge testing as a means of preventing future lockdowns.
This comes as many within the party are threatening to vote against a bill that would extend the emergency powers given to the government due to the coronavirus pandemic until September.
The dissenting conservative members of parliament (MPs) are warning Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Britain risks "squandering the advantages of our vaccination program" by moving far too slowly to lift lockdown restrictions and restart the economy.
"The detention powers in the Coronavirus Act are disproportionate, extreme and wholly unnecessary," said Conservative MP Steve Baker. The parliamentarian said he will be voting against proposals to extend government powers due to measures such as giving police more power to detain people.
"Renewing [the emergency powers] would not be reconcilable with the prime minister's guarantee that we are on a 'one-way road to freedom' by June 21."
Despite the protests within the Conservative Party itself the bill is still expected to pass with little difficulty, thanks to the overwhelming majority the party has in parliament.
"We do not want any restrictions to be in place longer than needed, which is why the regulations underpinning the road map expire at the end of June and must be reviewed at least every 35 days," said the government in a statement in response to the growing rebellion within the Conservative Party.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a British pro-free market think tank, argued that the "success" of the mass vaccination program meant there was now "a strong case" to move up the government's reopening plan by four weeks. This view has been backed by multiple Conservative MPs.
"Even if the vaccination program slows down next month, we are in a far better place than anybody expected in January," said Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA Christopher Snowdon.
"In just one day we vaccinated the equivalent of the entire adult populations of Liverpool, Southampton and Oxford combined," said Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service, the country's government-run healthcare system. Britain recently broke its one-day vaccination record, with 874,000 inoculations given within a span of 24 hours.
Learn more about the U.K.'s lockdown and mass testing and vaccination programs by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.