Government set to abolish ‘universal free lateral flow tests under new life with Covid plan’

The government is considering withdrawing lateral flow test under plans to live with Covid, it has been claimed.

The plans, as alleged Boris Johnson will announce within weeks may include a downscaling of the NHS Test and Trace system.

Quick tests have been available to anyone in the UK wanting one since April – but it is claimed that there are now concerns in Whitehall over their cost.

The alleged proposals, reported by The times, has been condemned by Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has warned Mr Johnson that disrupting universal free lateral flow tests would be a “completely wrong” approach to dealing with coronavirus.

Labor joined her and urged the Prime Minister against the move, after it was reported that they could be restricted to high-risk environments – such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools – and to people with symptoms.

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had not signed the move, but if Mr Johnson “really considered this” it would be “completely wrong”.

“Hard to imagine much that would be less useful to try to ‘live with’ Covid,” she tweeted.

She questioned what would happen to funding for British nations for testing under the Barnett formula if the Westminster government went ahead with the move.

The Scottish leader added: “Test so crucial that we would have to consider continued funding, but it would then come from existing budgets.”

A government source challenged the report, saying it was too early to say what the future would bring for free sidestreams.

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Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “This would be the wrong decision at the wrong time.

“Testing is absolutely essential to keep infections under control and avoid the need for additional restrictions that affect our lives, livelihoods and freedoms.

“This extra cost will also hit families at a time when they are facing a cost of living crisis. This means that people simply will not take them, putting others at risk.

“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

The tests have been seen as an important way to suppress the virus and have given people confidence to mingle safely with their loved ones, especially around Christmas, when cases of Omicron rose sharply.

It tells a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs I in response to the allegations: “Everyone can continue to get free tests and we continue to encourage people to use fast tests when they need them. Record numbers of tests are delivered to pharmacies, homes and those who need them.

“The UK’s test program is the largest in Europe with over 400 million PCR and LFD tests performed since the start of the pandemic.

“Testing continues to play an important role in helping people live their daily lives, keep businesses running and keep young people in school.

Despite the fact that the number of cases hits record highs after the advent of Omicron, hospitalization and deaths have not followed the same trajectory.

The new strain has also been branded as less lethal by several studies.

Professor Mike Tildesley, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modeling Group (Spi-M), said on Saturday that the variant may be the “first ray of light” in Covid-19 to become endemic and easier to live with.

“What may happen in the future is that you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less serious, and ultimately, in the long run, what is happening is that Covid will become endemic, and you has a less serious version, “he told Times Radio.

“It’s a lot like the common cold we’ve been living with for many years.”

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