Brits may soon have to fork out up to £30 for lateral flow tests as the Government prepares to relax self-isolation rules.
For now, the kits remain free – which has been confirmed by Downing Street.
But a new ‘living with Covid’ plan could set out a new price for lateral flow tests and is due to be unveiled by the Prime Minister on February 21, according to the Mirror.
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Leaked documents reportedly seen by Reuters claim the plan was to be laid out earlier but the date was pushed back due to the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The document which was shared between health agencies to prepare for different scenarios, an online ordering system may be put in place for Brits to order paid-for tests from the end of June.
But the date could be pushed back again if the virus throws another “curve ball”, an official said.
While the government has declined to announce what tests will cost, one source suggests it could be £30 for a seven-pack.
It comes after the Prime Minister announced government plans to end all domestic legal coronavirus restriction in England on February 24 – a month earlier than originally planned.
This means there will be no legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid-19.
It has caused concerns to be raised over the £500 self-isolation payment for poor workers with Covid and whether that will continue or not.
While isolation will not be a legal requirement, Downing Street said today: “We’d expect anyone with an infectious disease to take steps not to spread that disease further – a colleague at work with flu, for example.”
No final decision has reportedly been made on the future of the £500 payment yet and will be considered by the government next week.
The living with Covid plan will also address the future of the multi-billion pound contact tracing system which was mostly outsourced to private firms.
Mr Johnson told MPs: “It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.
“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we’ll be able to end the last domestic restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, a full month early.”
Currently, people in England must self-isolate for a full five days if they test positive for coronavirus.
The government’s decision has been blasted by UNISON who stated it would leave low-income workers and schools without any support.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Everybody wants to get back to normal, but Covid risks haven’t disappeared. This is going too far, way too soon.
“Infections are still rife in schools. Large numbers of pupils and staff are off. Allowing a premature return could lead to a further jump in infections and disrupt learning for thousands more.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s also vital that ministers fix our broken sick pay system once and for all. Workers who are laid low by Covid must be able to make ends meet – not pushed into financial hardship.
“It beggars belief that millions still don’t have access to decent sick pay.”
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London and a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, said he would be “very reluctant” to say that the pandemic was in any way over.”
Lobby Akinnola, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “The Prime Minister might wish that this disease was no more dangerous than the flu, but the reality is that he is throwing the most vulnerable in our society to the wolves. ”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.