UK Government ‘ready to start charging’ for some previously free COVID-19 tests

Spain is European leader for new COVID infections, with 600% more in the last month

The UK government said it is ‘ready to start charging’ for some previously free COVID-19 tests over mounting costs.

Britain is aiming to be ready to start charging for some previously free COVID-19 tests, according to a report from Reuters. The government and health officials have said that rapid testing, via easy-to-use lateral flow tests, is crucial for tracking the spread of COVID-19.

Regular testing of those without symptoms has been the key to identifying around a quarter of all cases during the crisis.

The finance ministry, headed by Rishi Sunak, is under pressure due to the upcoming budget and is said to be very keen to try to reduce its spending on the pandemic, which is set to hit a staggering £407 billion.

Under the so-called winter plan, the government said it would:

“Continue to provide the public with access to free lateral flow tests in the coming months. At a later stage, as the government’s response to the virus changes, universal free provision of LFDs (lateral flow devices) will end, and individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost.”

The government ended supplying free lateral flow tests for businesses in England back in July, and now, according to two sources that are close to the health system, steps are being taken to ready a charging system for the beginning of next year for widespread use.

Those steps include ensuring that payment capabilities are available on the government’s website at the beginning of January 2022.

Asked whether he would end the universal free testing offer early next year, health minister Sajid Javid told Reuters: “At the moment it is available. We haven’t made any decisions about next year.”

The finance ministry declined to add to the health minister’s comments. But Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will return Britain’s public finances to a sustainable path, raising the prospect of a squeeze on spending.

Under the universal provision, the government has made the tests freely available to order online or pick up from local pharmacies since April and recommends people test themselves around twice a week.

According to the latest available government data, for the week of Sept. 16-22, more than 4.4 million rapid tests of asymptomatic people were registered, of which almost 50,000 were positive.

The Department of Health has declined to say what the tests cost, citing commercial contracts. One source said they can run to 30 pounds ($40.70) for a pack of seven. The UK is not alone in this decision as other European countries have started to charge for the tests including Germany, reportedly ending their free provision this month.

But business groups said that, along with the vaccines, mass, rapid testing has been a game-changer in allowing Britain to open up, and withdrawing the free provision too soon could be damaging.

The hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit by months of closures during repeated pandemic lockdowns and free testing has been crucial to providing confidence for staff and customers.

 

“If the government wasn’t paying for it, we would want to use the government’s leverage to ensure that solution was cost-effective for employers. We need to make sure that we are keeping that price down as low as possible,” she added. “For small businesses, it would be very difficult for them to meet that kind of cost,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UK Hospitality.

Read more:

Covid tests for British travellers could be scrapped next month

EU earmarks €95 million to boost access to Covid tests

On the Beach restarts holidays with FREE Covid tests for Spain and Greece


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Ron Howells

Ron actually started his working career as an Ophthalmic Technician- things changed when, during a band rehearsal, his amplifier blew up and he couldn’t get it fixed so he took a course at Birmingham University and ended up doing a degree course. He built up a chain of electronics stores and sold them as a franchise over 35 years ago. After five years touring the world Ron decided to move to Spain with his wife and son, a place they had visited over the years, and only bought the villa they live in because it has a guitar-shaped swimming pool!. Playing the guitar since the age of 7, he can often be seen, (and heard!) at beach bars and clubs along the length of the coast. He has always been interested in the news and constantly thrives to present his articles in an interesting and engaging way.

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