The government has not changed its mind about scrapping free tests despite the emergence of yet another variant (Picture: PA)
The government is still planning on scrapping free Covid-19 home tests despite the emergence of another new variant.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has urged people to take a lateral flows at home before they attend Christmas parties this year amid fears Omicron could trigger a fresh wave of infections.
At the moment, anyone can get a box of the swabs delivered to their door but soon we’ll have to fork out to find out if we’re infected with coronavirus.
Under the winter plan, which was last updated on November 9, the government says it will keep paying for lateral flow tests for ‘the coming months’.
But it says eventually ‘universal free provision…will end and individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost’.
When asked by Metro.co.uk, the Department for Health and Social Care would not clarify when the free testing policy would extend to.
Self-isolation laws will remain in place until March 24, 2022, unless repealed but the department did not give a guarantee free testing would last at least until then.
Households up and down the country use the free tests to check themselves for asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The government said it would be ‘engaging widely’ on how the paid testing model will work before it is rolled out but any change would likely see a significant financial burden foisted on the most careful families and companies.
President Joe Biden has announced health insurance will cover the cost of tests from January but a look at US pharmacies reveals what may lie in store for Brits.
A box of two lateral flows over the counter at Walgreens produced by BinaxNow sets the average American back by £18.
That means a couple who followed the government advice to test twice weekly would have to spend £144 a month.
Metro.co.uk also asked the health department if price controls would be enforced to prevent inflation in any private lateral flow market but did not receive a response.
The cost of lateral flow tests for travelers varied wildly before they were replaced with PCRs earlier this week, ranging from around £15 to more than £200 in some instances.
Sajid Javid has urged people to take a test before Christmas parties this week to help stop the spread (Picture: Reuters)
Despite the looming scrapping of free testing, the government has ramped up its messaging in recent weeks to urge people to use the kits.
The official advice on when to take a test was upgraded from twice a week to whenever you’re planning on visiting a vulnerable person or a crowded indoor space just nine days ago.
Mr Javid has extolled the benefits of lateral flows in recent days, telling Sky News he would take a test before attending a Christmas party.
He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If you are invited to a Christmas party, there’s quite a few people there, maybe you want to take an LFT (lateral flow test) before you go.’
His predecessor Matt Hancock used his first post-resignation TV interview to warn it’s ‘really important’ that lateral flow tests ‘stay free’.
Leaked plans obtained by the Mail on Sunday in September, dubbed Operation Rampdown, also included proposals to do away with universal free testing in favour of a more limited approach.
The same document also included a draft plan to wrap up the £37bn Test and Trace programme, end the need to isolate for vaccinated people and scrap the £500 hardship payment for poor families who lose income because of quarantine.
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