14 February 2022

SNP urge UK Government to continue funding for free Covid tests

14 February 2022

The Prime Minister must confirm that funding for free Covid-19 testing will continue in devolved nations, the SNP has said.

Rumours have swirled in recent months that free testing could come to an end, with the announcement last week that self isolation rules could be scrapped later this month heightening fears.

But SNP health spokesman, Martyn Day, said Boris Johnson must not impose changes to “appease Tory backbenchers” and any decisions should be backed by medical advice.

“The UK Government must confirm that it will continue to fund Covid-19 testing for devolved nations – after the confusion caused by Boris Johnson and his Tory ministers,” he said.

Any changes to Covid testing must be guided by expert public health advice through the Chief Medical Officers

“Any changes to Covid testing must be guided by expert public health advice through the chief medical officers.

“It would be typically reckless for the Westminster Government to simply impose changes in a bid to appease Tory backbenchers and save the Prime Minister’s skin.

“Scotland’s more safe and cautious approach to the pandemic has seen better outcomes.

“We must continue to be guided by the scientific evidence, and not by Downing Street’s concerns over the number of letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson from Tory MPs.”

The push comes as the Prime Minister and one of his ministers dodged questions on the issue.

During a visit to Scotland on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “On testing, which is important, we’ll make sure we continue to work with our colleagues in Scotland.”

On a visit to Scotland, Boris Johnson said he would ‘continue to work with our colleagues in Scotland’ (Jeff J Mitchell/PA) (PA Wire)

When pushed, the Prime Minister added: “We’ll continue to work with our colleagues in Scotland but I believe the similarities in our approach vastly outweigh the differences.”

Scotland Office minister, Iain Stewart, told the BBC on Monday: “What we’ve said is that next week, if the figures and Covid continue the way they are, we’ll be setting out a comprehensive plan on what living with Covid in a normal sense looks like, but I am not sighted on what might be in that.”

He added that there continue to be “regular meetings several times a week” between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on the Covid response.

Sage, the independent group of advisers who have been counselling the Government throughout the pandemic, cautioned against removing free testing.

The group said getting rid of free testing would make it harder for people to take precautions and “may also increase anxiety among those who have found testing reassuring after possible exposure, particularly those who are, or live with, someone who is clinically vulnerable”.

“Some people may also take the removal of free and accessible testing as a signal that they should continue to attend workplaces/social gatherings while showing Covid-19 symptoms, as these become conflated with other symptoms of respiratory illness such as influenza,” the group added.

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