Fees for COVID lateral flow tests will be introduced in England within “months”, prompting criticism of the “reckless” move.
“Universal free provisioning will end” and “individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost”, the government says – despite accepting rapid tests that identify a quarter of reported infections.
No date has been set for the switch, but the winter plan unveiled by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, says the tests will only remain free for “the coming months”.
Public health chiefs and school leaders have united in criticizing the move, which Mr Javid failed to announce in his statement to parliament last Tuesday.
Prof Kate Ardern, the principal director of public health in Greater Manchester, explained that tests for other diseases, such as tuberculosis, are free on the NHS.
“Anything that potentially prevents people from continuing to get tested – and a fee does so – is potentially a little worrisome,” she said. Guardian.
Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health at the COVID hotspot in Blackburn-with-Darwen, said it was “important” that testing remained free for those most at risk.
“Anything that hinders community-level testing in high-risk communities, which we know are often the lowest-income communities, will increase the risk of further transmission and of course hospitalization and mortality,” They said.
And Paul Whiteman of the NAHT, a union of school leaders, said: “The best way to reduce disruption to children’s education is to keep the number of COVID cases in school as low as possible. Testing is key to that.”
Granthshala reported that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was considering the allegations in July, but withdrew after criticism.
But, buried in the winter strategy – which unveiled Boris Johnson’s ‘Plan B’ in the coming weeks as the Covid pandemic escalates – is the confirmation that fees will be introduced.
The plan states: “Rapid asymptomatic testing is an important tool to help reduce the spread of the virus, while helping people manage their own exposure and those of others.
“Therefore the government will continue to provide the public with access to free lateral flow tests in the coming months.”
It then adds: “In a later stage, as the government’s response to the virus changes, the universal free provision of LFD [lateral flow devices] will expire, and individuals and businesses using the test will bear the cost.
“The government will be as widely involved in this model as it is developed, recognizing that rapid testing can play an important, ongoing role in the future.”
The move comes despite a high-profile campaign last spring urging everyone to test themselves twice a week under the title ‘Next Step Safely’.
Lateral flow tests were made available from workplaces and locations in the community “to encourage a new testing habit” for anyone without COVID symptoms.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “LFD is an important measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and that is why we have confirmed that we are expanding the free provision of these tests.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /