It is expected that next week ministers will announce plans to phase out free COVID tests. The “living with COVID strategy”, to be released on Monday, will reportedly signal the end of free COVID testing and the tracing system. However, it is not known whether these plans will apply solely to England or the UK entirely.
The plan, which is still being hammered out by the Government, is allegedly being spearheaded by the Treasury as they seek to reduce annual COVID-related expenditure by 90% — from £15bn to 1.3bn.
From next Monday, the Government will advise asymptomatic individuals to stop testing regularly and by the end of March it is expected that free PCR tests will be scrapped for those with symptoms, unless they are extremely vulnerable or are in hospital or high-risk settings. People experiencing symptoms will still be encouraged to take lateral flow tests – paid for by themselves – however, older people may continue to receive free tests.
These revelations have concerned public health chiefs and opposition parties greatly, as they fear that this will affect antiviral research, hamper the UK’s ability to track new variants, and lead to more hospital admissions. The SNP have pre-empted the announcement by calling on the UK government to confirm that COVID tests will remain free in Scotland.