Asian Standard has learned free covid testing could be dropped as early as next week as part of the government’s ‘living with covid’ strategy. Ministers will reportedly rely on Covid surveillance schemes instead of testing.
This would mean individuals will no longer be able to get free PCR and lateral flow tests in an announcement due to be made in the next seven days according to sources. In short, people may need to pay for testing going forward. This would also include the vulnerable, children and health and care workers.
A government spokesperson has said: “We’ve previously set out that we’ll keep the provision of free testing under review as the government’s response to COVID-19 changes.
“No decisions have been made on the provision of free testing. Everyone can continue to get free tests and we are continuing to encourage people to use rapid tests when they need them.
“Testing continues to play an important role in helping people live their day to day lives, keep businesses running and keep young people in school.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reacted by saying: “I think ending free testing is a mistake, covid isn’t going away.
“Obviously all of us want restrictions to end but it’s still important that people test if they have symptoms or if they’re going to see someone vulnerable.
“If you take away free tests, that will diminish the likelihood of that and make it worse in the long run.
“It’s not good to get rid of free tests on health grounds, nor is it economically the right thing to do.”
It seems ministers will meet later this week to discuss the “learning to live with covid” strategy which will include removing the final coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile the latest figures show almost 160,000 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. There have been 18 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
We can also reveal 91 per cent of people aged 12 and over in the UK have had their first vaccine dose, 85 per cent have had their second with 66 per cent having a booster.
The number of people who have received a second vaccine dose is nearing 49 million, or 85 per cent of people aged 12 and over.
Some 38 million booster doses have been administered across the UK, with about 31.5 million in England, 3.4 million in Scotland, 1.9 million in Wales and one million in Northern Ireland.
The most recent government figures we can find reveal 12,304 people with coronavirus were in hospital, down from 13,959 a week earlier.
Of those in hospital with coronavirus, 393 are in mechanical ventilation beds – using ventilators to help them breathe – down from 443 a week earlier.
The World Health organisation has also issued a warning it’s a good idea to keep wearing masks.