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Workplace COVID testing is now available to all businesses in England, the government has announced, including those with fewer than 50 employees.

Businesses of all sizes can register from today, 8 March, to order lateral flow tests for their workers, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. The tests are free until 30 June, and companies can register until 31 March.

Rapid Covid-19 testing provides results in less than 30 minutes, helping people to “isolate immediately”, DHSC said.

The hope is that asymptomatic cases can be detected quickly, thereby preventing workplace outbreaks.

An online portal has been launched for businesses to find out more about offering rapid workplace testing. Businesses will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme, along with promotional materials.

All local authorities in England are now offering rapid lateral flow testing for small businesses if they can’t offer rapid workplace testing. Businesses can find their local test site online. Initially, only businesses with 250 or more employees were eligible to access lateral flow tests. This was reduced to 50 last month.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that regular workplace testing was “a vital part of our route back to normal life”.

He said: “These rapid tests will allow positive cases of Covid-19 to be caught quickly, which is crucial in helping businesses protect their workplaces and employees as we cautiously lift restrictions.”

That all said, people are still being advised to work from home where they can.

Businesses have welcomed the wider rollout of workplace testing.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said helping businesses to introduce testing was “fundamental to bringing the coronavirus under control and ensuring that this current lockdown is the last”.