Nicola Sturgeon: UK Government must commit to continuing free Covid tests

Nicola Sturgeon has called for a commitment that the UK Government will continue to provide free lateral flow tests “for as long as necessary”.

Scotland’s First Minister was asked about reports that freely-available testing for all could be scrapped and said she wants a “clear commitment” from the UK Government that free testing kits would continue.

The UK Government has denied it has plans to end free lateral flow testing following a story in the Sunday Times.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, following a statement on the lifting of certain coronavirus restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said:”On the issue of lateral flow testing, I think living with Covid is likely to involve, for some time, the need to test ourselves in particular situations.

“Therefore, for that to be effective, I think it is essential that we continue to make lateral flow tests available as widely as possible and free of charge. And that is a really important principle to the effective working of any testing strategy.

“The UK Government has been at pains to say they are not thinking of removing free access to lateral flow devices anytime soon.

“I hope we see that assurance solidify and be replaced with a clear commitment to continue with free lateral flow devices for as long as necessary.”

Responding to the story about supposed proposals to end freely available testing, Ms Sturgeon had previously warned that it would be an “utterly wrongheaded” approach to dealing with Covid-19.

Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, said the Scottish Government believes the UK Government’s denial and said there was there is “no intelligence” that reports of scrapping free coronavirus testing were true.

He added: “We think it’s a red herring.”

The UK’s Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, also denied there are plans to stop providing free lateral flow devices after the report suggesting Prime Minister Boris Johnson would announce the change within weeks.