British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national rapid COVID-19 testing program on Monday as businesses begin reopening and restrictions put in place to stop the virus from spreading are relaxed.
Reuters reported that Johnson said his aim is to provide enough COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to make it possible for U.K. residents to be tested twice a week, a move that officials hope will help catch asymptomatic cases and stop new outbreaks.
“As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine program and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted,” said the prime minister.
The news service reported that the U.K. is likely to reopen salons and other businesses where close contact between customer and employee occurs within the next week. Other restrictions, such as the ban on nonessential international travel, will likely continue, however.
Johnson's efforts to reopen Britain's economy comes as more than half of adults in the U.K. have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to roughly one-third in the U.S.
His efforts are also occurring as many of Britain's European neighbors have struggled to obtain enough vaccine doses to immunize large segments of their adult populations, hindering economic recoveries across the continent.
A number of countries also suspended distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to health concerns, further complicating the rollout across Europe.