A SENIOR UK Government minister has denied reports that free lateral flow tests are to end.

The Sunday Times quoted a Whitehall source who told the paper that “it’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing” adding that they “don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody for evermore”.

It has been suggested that tests would only remain free in high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools, and to people with symptoms. The speculation prompted an angry response from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Writing on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon said any such move would be “utterly wrongheaded”, adding that it was “hard to imagine much that would be less helpful to trying to ‘live with’ Covid”.

She added: “What happens via Barnett Formula to Scottish Government funding if UK Government axes free tests? Testing so vital, we’d have to consider continued funding but it would then come from existing budgets. “More evidence that current UK funding rules not fit for purpose.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Free lateral flow test scaling back reports 'utterly wrongheaded'

But UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has denied there are any plans to withdraw free lateral flow tests.

Speaking on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, he said: “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 coming in and they will continue to be available for free.

“I don’t really recognise where that story is coming from.”


Questioned whether there are no plans to stop lateral flow tests being free, he said: “Absolutely not.”

Mr Zahawi also argued that reducing the isolation period for coronavirus from seven to five days could help reduce staffing shortages.

He said: “It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others.

“But I would absolutely be driven by advice from the experts, the scientists, on whether we should move to five days from seven days. What you don’t want is to create the wrong outcome by higher levels of infection.”

He added: “I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic, and then deal with this however long it remains with us, whether that’s five, six, seven, 10 years.”