Nicola Sturgeon calls for 'clarity' on COVID testing funding
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As the end of free mass Covid testing for the general public approaches in England, the search for the best value kits has started for Britons. After Boots said customers would from Wednesday be able to order one from their website for roughly £6 or a pack of four £17, it emerged competitor Superdrug is offering a single LFT for almost a 2.5 share of the price.
The retailer wrote in a statement: “We want to confirm that Superdrug’s pricing is as follows: A single lateral flow test at £1.99. A 5 pack at £9.79.”
As businesses gear up for the slashing of widely available free tests on April 1, with Boots saying the earlier launch date was to prepare their supply chains, much is at stake for the British public, with fears the poor and vulnerable will be the ones to truly feel the change.
While No10 said “a small number of at-risk groups” and care home staff will continue to get free LFTs, possibly the over-80s, they admitted the details of who will be eligible and its funding had not yet been worked out.
However, arguing it was time to “get our confidence back”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday unveiled the UK’s “Living with Covid” plan, as part of which “personal responsibility” is key.
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With Government restrictions disappearing, Mr Johnson claimed: “We can rely on that sense of responsibility towards one another.
“We don’t need laws to compel people to be considerate to others.”
One of the biggest and most controversial developments of the country’s route out of the coronavirus pandemic is the fact contacts of people testing positive will no longer have to test or isolate from Thursday, with contact tracing ending, too.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance both cautioned that though the government has not committed to renewing that advice beyond April, people who tested positive for COVID-19 should still self-isolate.
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Sir Chris warned Covid could still cause “significant problems” and stressed it is not a “trivial” disease, and Mr Vallance expressed concern about rates of infection potentially going up if everyone returned to pre-pandemic behaviour.
He said: “In terms of the current situation, I’d like the prevalence to be lower, I’d like rates of infection to be lower.
“We are not back to pre-pandemic behaviours yet. And as those return, you would expect the pressure and transmission to increase.”
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Close to 463 million Covid tests have been conducted in the UK since the start of the pandemic.
On average, more than one million LFTs and PCRs a day have regularly been carried out this year, with the number dropping below 800,000 last week amid a drop in cases.
Public health experts have raised concerns that the scrapping of tests will mean scientists can not track the spread of the virus and the emergence of new variants.
Boots’ tests, which include delivery within two days, will give customers the option to send results to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). However, this not being mandatory implies a loss in crucial data.
The UKHSA reporting function will not be included in cheaper test kits to be made available online by the retailer in early March, with four tests priced at £9.50.
However, users will still be able to pick up tests in-store priced at £2.50 for one or £12 for a pack of five.
Asif Aziz, director of healthcare services at Boots UK, said: “We are pleased to be expanding our COVID-19 testing services even further, with affordable lateral flow testing options for those who still want peace of mind from asymptomatic testing after 1 April.”
Countries such as Spain or France have placed a price cap on Covid tests. The UK has not hinted at intentions of setting one.
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