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Scrapping free lateral flow tests ‘dangerous and reckless’, says First Minister

SCRAPPING free lateral flow tests has been described as “dangerous and reckless” by Wales’ first minister.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline his plans for how England will “live with covid” by removing the remaining coronavirus restrictions – including the legal requirement to self isolate.

The prime minister, who was due to meet with cabinet members this morning but mysteriously delayed, is expected to unveil the plan and announce the new changes at a press conference later today.

However there are concerns that the provision of free lateral flow tests could be removed – a decision which would also impact Wales.

Although there has yet to be confirmation that the free at home tests could come to an end at part of England’s plan to live with coronavirus, it is widely expected that it could be announced this afternoon.

Currently people across the UK can order a box of tests online or pick them up from their local pharmacy.

If the free provision is removed people would instead have to purchase their own boxes of tests.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning UK Government Business Minister, Paul Scully, said that whilst he won’t preempt any announcement from the prime minister the “relentless pace” of spending £2 billion a month on testing can’t be kept up.

He suggested that the money could be spent elsewhere, including on the NHS backlog.

Asked at a press conference two weeks ago Economy Minister Vaughan Gething admitted that any changes to the lateral flow test provision would cause a “significant dent” in the Welsh government’s budget.

He described any removal of the current free testing system as a mistake.

This has been echoed by First Minister Mark Drakeford this morning who described any changes to the existing National Testing Programme as “premature and reckless.”

In a series of tweets Mr Drakeford said: “Testing has played a pivotal role in breaking chains of transmission and as a surveillance tool helping us detect and respond to emerging variants. It’s essential that this continues.

“Any decision to effectively turn off the tap on our National Testing Programme, with no future plans in place to reactivate it, would put people at risk.

“In Wales, we’ll continue to make decisions to protect the health of people based on the scientific evidence available to us.”