TENS of thousands of high risk workers will be tested for coronavirus as part of a new Government pilot.
Taxi drivers, cleaners and shop workers are among those who will get a Covid swab test – even if they have no symptoms.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
The testing, which begins immediately, would help understand how prevalent Covid-19 is among those who are thought to be at higher risk, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Firms included in the trial include taxi firm Addison Lee, BT, services firm Mitie and pharmacy giant Boots.
Local authorities in Bradford, Newham, Brent and Oldham will also select groups of people deemed to be high-risk for asymptomatic testing.
The DHSC said each business will receive thousands of tests for staff via home-testing delivery or a mobile testing unit.
Local authorities will book tests for people at walk-in test sites.
Those who test positive will need to self-isolate and results will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contacts can be traced, the DHSC said.
It comes as the latest figures from the tracing system showed the proportion of contacts of positive cases fell again – in its fifth week of operation.
The Department of Health said 4,347 people had their cases transferred to the system between June 25 and July 1.
There were 14,892 people identified as close contacts, and 70.8 per cent were reached and asked to self isolate.
Last week, 73 per cent were reported to have been reached in the fourth week, and 82.4 per cent reached in the third week.
In all 144,501 contacts of those people had been reached, 85.1 per cent of total contacts identified.
Officials said the average turnaround time for tests was improving, with 97.5 per cent of tests results returned the next day when a test was completed in person.
Dido Harding, executive chair of NHS Test and Trace, said: “We are committed to continually improving NHS Test and Trace.
“This week we have seen test turnaround times improve further.”
It comes after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested taxi drivers and people arriving at airports as well as NHS staff could be subject to mass testing in efforts to identify asymptomatic people and their contacts.
Mr Hunt, now chairman of the health and social care committee, said certain groups within the population, as well as people in particular parts of the country, could be tested to try to better track Covid-19 infections.
Speaking during an online conversation with Royal Society of Medicine president Professor Sir Simon Wessely on Wednesday, he said: “I think looking at healthcare staff, looking at taxi drivers is another group, airport arrivals is another group.
“I think we need to think about mass testing amongst groups of the population as well as parts of the country like Leicester and so on, as our best way of finding out where the asymptomatics are and feeding them into the system so that their contacts can be isolated.”