So what is the future for lateral flow tests (LFTs) – paid for or free? The former vaccine minister and now education secretary Nadhim Zahawi was clear that ministers were “absolutely not” planning on ending free LFTs, after a report that free tests are to be limited to high-risk settings – such as care homes, hospitals and schools – and to people with symptoms.
Mr Zahawi said he was “slightly puzzled by” the story in The Sunday Times, which quoted a “senior Whitehall source” who suggested that there were concerns about the cost of the testing regime and that an announcement over LFTs could come within weeks. Downing Street sources also called the report “incorrect”, saying it was too early to say what the future holds for free LFTs.
It is not the first time we have been down this road during the Covid-19 pandemic, with suggestions on strategy popping up in the public domain, only to be denied by ministers (and then potentially resurfacing again later). It is obvious that both within the cabinet and Downing Street there are splits over what is seen as the best way forward. So it’s possible that such reports are being used to test the public reaction to possible future measures – or at least, that individuals may be seeking to do so.
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