Rapid DIY Covid tests which provide a result within minutes could allow people to return to everything from theatre and gigs to football matches, according to an expert.
The £5 test produces results within minutes and have proved 95 percent accurate at picking up infection.
A Government source told The Sun on-the-spot checks of people’s Covid status would also “help us to get towards a normal life in spring”.
Hundreds of thousands of mass testing Covid tests will be rolled out in 67 towns and cities across the UK allowing for results in just 15 minutes.
It would see a huge proportion of the country receiving results who have previously never been tested, with scientists estimating it could reduce the transmission rate by 90 percent.
People who have tested positive for coronavirus and spent two weeks in self-isolation should be given “freedom passes” allowing them to do anything they want, an expert has said.
Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government’s vaccine taskforce, said the current contact tracing system was based around a “big stick that beats people up”.
Giving evidence at joint session of the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees, Prof Bell said there needed to be an “enablement strategy” in order to encourage more people to get tested.
He added: “We are living in a word where we need to reopen society back up again and we need a structure to do that and at the moment we don’t have that structure because the whole philosophy has ‘let’s beat them up with a stick’ rather than ‘let’s give them a carrot’.”
Prof Bell suggested using a “freedom pass” so that people who test positive and spend two weeks in self-isolation can then do what they want for three months.
Lateral flow tests, which have a turnaround time of under an hour, could allow people to be checked “every other day” if they are a contact without them having to self-isolate, he added.
Prof Bell said: “My view is you test people, if they have got a positive result you ask them to quarantine for two weeks and ensure they quarantine for two weeks and if they behave themselves and they quarantine for two weeks you give them a freedom pass for three months and you say you’ve had the disease you can do and do anything you want for three months, it’s fine.
“If they test negative you can then have a couple of days freedom because you know that they are not infected.
“If they are a contact you test them every other day but leave them to go about their business in the real world, so there are advantages to everybody from this.
“The negatives do better, the positives do better and people will want to be tested because it’s an opportunity to get back to normal life.”
NHS Test and Trace chair Baroness Harding indicated work was being carried out on allowing people to “do more things” if they had either natural or vaccine-acquired immunity.
That could mean allowing the NHS Covid-19 app to record whether someone has had a vaccine, she told the committees.
“One of the potential scenarios for the future is being able to use some combination of our understanding of immunity, both natural and acquired, together with testing data, to enable people to do more things,” she said.
“But it’s very early days.”
Asked whether that work was being carried out now, she told MPs: “We have always aimed to invest ahead of the science.”
Baroness Harding said testing could be used as part of an “enablement” strategy.
She said: “I do think that Sir John is right, there is a third testing opportunity which is using it to enable your freedom as the science teaches us when we are less risky and able to do more.”
Prof Bell also warned that knowing getting tested could lead to people and their friends being told to self-isolate was a “massive disincentive” to get a test.
He said that, if no one wanted to be tested, it could lead to the end of mass testing programmes such as the pilot in Liverpool.
Prof Bell added: “This has to be about enablement you have to be giving people something which they wouldn’t otherwise have which they want to have then you will have queues of people wanting to be tested.
“It’s a real problem and it’s come out loud and clear in schools and universities and it’s beginning to come out in Liverpool.
“I can’t share that data with you yet but it’s starting to be clear it’s a problem in Liverpool as well.”