Lateral flow tests to remain free amid shortage rumours
Lateral flow tests for Covid will remain free, a government minister has assured.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has insisted tests will remain free amid criticism after suggestions they could be scaled back despite soaring coronavirus cases.
The Cabinet minister said he is “puzzled” by a report suggesting that their universal availability could be axed as they are limited to high-risk settings and for people with symptoms.
The Sunday Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would make the announcement within weeks, while the NHS Test and Trace system could also be scaled back.
Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the move would be “utterly wrongheaded”, while Labour said it would be the “wrong decision at the wrong time”.
But Mr Zahawi told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I saw that story this morning, which I was slightly puzzled by because I don’t recognise it at all. This is absolutely not where we are at.
“For January alone 425 million lateral flow tests (are) coming in and they will continue to be available for free.
“I don’t really recognise where that story is coming from.”
Asked whether there are plans to stop lateral flow tests being free, he said: “Absolutely not.”
Mr Zahawi also told the Sunday Times that he would support the isolation period being reduced from seven days to five days.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, the Education Secretary said: “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they want to review it, so we will stick to seven days but if they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it’s even more helpful.”
Mr Zahawi also told the paper he believes the UK is “witnessing the transition of the virus from pandemic to endemic”.