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Ending free lateral flow tests ‘would be significant mistake’ says economy minister

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT are keen to keep providing lateral flow tests, and pandemic surveillance tools such as the Office of National Statistics reporting, The Herald understands.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething was asked about reports that the UK Government no longer wants to fund free lateral flow tests in the future, and was queried on the Welsh Government position.

“I know that if we were to provide lateral flow tests, without UK purchasing, without that being made available, there would be significant dent in our budget, and that would have to come out of other priorities. We don’t have a budget allocation to do that.

“This is a good example where governments should be working closely together, not having nameless anonymised briefings being made that these things may happen. Ending free lateral flow tests would be a really significant mistake. If you think about people who are less likely to afford to pay for their tests, they are less likely to get tests, I think actually those sectors are already affected and are likely to be hit harder.

“Because Coronavirus is still in circulation that just doesn’t seem like the sensible thing to be doing at this point. If we do reach a point where we believe there is no longer the need for lateral flow test to be available, it should come on the back of discussion between the government but also properly informed public health advice to all four governments as well, and we should make that available to the public, so they know this isn’t simply being driven by a penny pinching Chancellor and is actually all about doing the right thing at that stage of Coronavirus, and its journey across our islands.”

The Minister was then asked about the data provided daily, which is based off PCR tests, and the weekly LFT data. He was also asked about reports that the UK Government are considering pulling the plug on funding for the ONS infection survey, “With these things in mind is the Welsh Government concerned at all that it will not have enough data going forward to carry out proper surveillance of COVID rates here?”

The Minister replied, “It would be a significant gap in our intelligence and understanding what is happening with Coronavirus if the ONS survey was defunded by the UK Government and again, that should not be a conversation that takes place with anonymised briefing to the media as be a proper conversation between the governments of the UK and understanding if there is a case to stop the survey, if there is public health advice supporting doing that, and we may well get to a point in time over the coming months where it is the right thing to do.

“That certainly isn’t the point now and I think it’s very unhelpful for this case to have been flown in the way it has been by whoever it is around the UK Government doing so.

“We think the ONS survey is really important not just for us, but for other governments in the UK to see what’s happening and crucially for the public to to see the impact of Coronavirus around the UK.”