Covid Scotland: Boris Johnson and UK Government minister cannot answer whether free testing will be scrapped

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Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart said he could not answer questions about whether the UK Government would scrap free Covid tests.

It comes as Covid cases in Scotland fell to the lowest number for almost two months.

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Scotland recorded 5,118 new cases in the 24 hours to Monday. The last time there were fewer new infections recorded was back on December 17 last year.

Free Covid testing has been an important part of the fight against the virus. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons last week that he plans to end all remaining restrictions at the end of this month, including self-isolation requirements.

When asked directly during Monday’s visit to Scotland on whether free Covid testing would continue, Mr Johnson replied: “We will continue to work with our colleagues in Scotland, but I believe the similarities in our approach vastly outweigh the differences.”

Speaking earlier on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Stewart said: “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.”

Mr Stewart said there continued to be “regular meetings several times a week” between the UK Government and the returned administrations on the Covid response.

He stressed the position less than 24 hours after Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf pleaded with the UK Government not to “underneath the rug from us” around Covid-19 measures, in particular free universal testing for the virus.

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It has been mooted Mr Johnson is considering limiting free Covid tests to high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools.

SNP Westminster health spokesperson Martyn Day said: “The UK Government must confirm that it will continue to fund Covid-19 testing for returned nations – after the confusion caused by Boris Johnson and his Tory ministers.

“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.”

Mr Yousaf confirmed on Sunday the Scottish Government would extend existing self-isolation requirements beyond the end of this month.

He said in response to the move by the UK Government to end compulsory self isolation: “Now our public health advice would be that it’s too early to do that at the end of February. We’ve got thousands of cases of Omicron at the moment. Do we really think it would be wise for someone who is positive with Covid and is a social care worker to go work in a care home?

“I think most people watching this would say that doesn’t sound sensitive at all.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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