Michael Gove has refused to deny that the free later flow covid tests currently available on the government website and from pharmacies will be phased out over the weeks to come, just 24 hours after a different minister stated the government would “absolutely not” charge the public for lateral flow tests.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove, told news channels that the lateral flow tests would be offered to the public for free for “as long as we need them” however evaded giving an explanation on what would happen if demand for the tests did subside.
He went on to say that the country was “moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with COVID” but that we are “not there yet”.
Even though Gove has said previously that the government will do “whatever it takes”, he stated it’s impossible to predict how long free lateral flow tests will be needed.
The Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi, told new channels that the government had no plans to scale back testing to high-risk groups and settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools. However, did not comment on later availability to the general public and the public at large.
Michael Gove has reintroduced the idea that the country could potentially be moving to living with COVID-19 just as we live with the flu and common cold as well as other season respiratory diseases.
Nevertheless, the situation surrounding the NHS and its workers does not support Michael Gove’s ideology of “living with covid. Gove did acknowledge the difficulty of the weeks ahead, encouraging individuals to test and isolate if required. But again, when pushed on whether the government was preparing to reduce the availability of free testing kits, refused to give a definitive answer.
Lateral flow tests may not be the only resource to be scaled back. According to the Sunday Times, we could see changes made to the NHS Test and Trace system.
An estimated £6bn of public money has been spent on mass testing since with free lateral flow tests being made available to everyone in England last April.
In line with Michael Gove, a government spokeswoman danced around the question when pushed on the subject of scaling back testing, going on to say,” Everyone can continue to get free tests and we are continuing to encourage people to use rapid tests when they need them”.
These concerns of COVID testing come amidst pressure from Tory MPs for Boris Johnson to further ease COVID-19 restrictions and pave the way forward for the United Kingdom and living with the virus.
The Education Secretary has expressed that he is in favour of cutting the COVID isolation period from seven to just five to help ease pressure on the NHS, schools and other public services.
Other ministers such as Rishi Sunak are keen to promote economic recovery over public safety. However, it is understood that Boris Johnson will be unlikely to make any changes whilst COVID cases remain at an all-time high.