Michael Gove Says Lateral Flow Tests Will Be 'Free For As Long As We Need Them'

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  • Michael Gove
    British politician (born 1967)
Gove said the UK was still not quite ready to live completely besides Covid (Photo: Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Gove said the UK was still not quite ready to live completely besides Covid (Photo: Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Michael Gove did not rule out making the public pay for lateral flow tests once we are able to live with Covid during his media round on Monday.

Speaking to Sky News, the housing and levelling up secretary said lateral flow tests will be free “for as long as we need them”.

Gove was responding to reports from Sunday which claimed the prime minister was considering making people pay for lateral flow tests in the coming weeks.

Gove continued: “One of the things with the pandemic is that it’s been impossible to predict with certainty throughout, but it is the case that in this country lateral flow tests are free unlike in many other jurisdictions.

“They’re a vital tool in making sure we can curb infections and also that people who need to isolate do so.”

He added: “We are moving to a situation – we’re not there yet – where it is possible to say we can live with Covid and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating.

″But, it’s absolutely vital to recognise that we are not there yet, and as the health secretary has reminded us, there are some difficult weeks ahead.”

Sky News’ host Kay Burley said: “So we are considering phasing out lateral flow tests but not for the coming weeks, as we try to deal with Omicron variant and with the Delta variant which is still around.

“So not for the next few weeks, is that right?”

Gove said: “Well, as the prime minister and others have said, we will do whatever it takes.”

Gove’s comments follow a firmer response from the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, on Sunday.

He told the BBC that “we are not calling an end to free lateral flow tests”, and pointed out that Downing Street has ordered 425 million new testing devices in January.

The government has pushed lateral flow tests to the very front of their response to the pandemic in recent weeks, ever since the highly-transmissible variant Omicron emerged in November.

Daily testing has now replaced isolation for close contacts of positive Covid cases, and enables people to end self-isolation on the seventh day rather than the tenth.

The public have been urged to test themselves before socialising too.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Gove also looked at how the UK could learn to live besides the virus.

He said: “If we get through this difficult period, then there will be better times ahead.

“One of the things we need to think about is how we live with Covid.”

He then said that the prime minister was “right” not to implement more restrictions beyond Plan B before Christmas, even though daily case numbers are still over 100,000 throughout the UK.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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