MANCHESTER / LONDRES, England, October 6 (Hfrance.fr) - Great Britain aimsearly next year to be ready to start charging for some previously free COVID-19 tests, according to two sources at the health department said, a first step described as motivated by the finance ministry's desire to limit spending .
Government and health officials have said rapid testing, via easy-to-use lateral flow tests, is key to tracking the spread of COVID-19, with regular testing for those without symptoms identifying about a quarter of all cases.
But with a budget statement later This month, the finance ministry wants to try to cut its pandemic-related spending, which is expected to reach 407 billion pounds ($ 555 billion).
As part of the so-called winter plan, released last month, the government said it "would provide public access to free lateral flow tests within the next month ".
" At a later stage , as the government's response to the virus changes, the universal free provision of LFD (device lateral flow) will end, and individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost, "he added.
The government ended free lateral flow testing for businesses in England in July. According to two sources close to the healthcare system, steps are being taken to prepare a pricing system for early next year for widespread use.
These measures include ensuring that payment capabilities are available on the government website in early January.
It is not clear when the levy will be introduced. A sourcesaid the decision would depend on COVID-19 hospitalization numbers and infection rate.
He was asked if he would put the universal free test offer ends early next year. vous ar, the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, told Hfrance.fr: "For the moment, it is available. We have not made any decision regarding next year.
The finance ministry declined to add to the health minister's comments. But Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will put UK public finances back on a sustainable path, which points to spending cuts.
KEEP THIS PRICE 'AS LOW AS POSSIBLE '
Under the universal provision, the government made the tests available free to order online or withdraw in the pharmacies since April, and recommends that people test themselves about twice a week.
According to the latest government data available, for the week of 16-22 September, more than 4.4 million rapid tests of asymptomatic people were recorded, of which nearly 50,000 were positive.
The Ministry of Health has declined to say how much the tests cost, citing business information contracts. A source said they can go up to 30 pounds ($ 40.70) for a seven pack.
Others European countries have started charging for tests, including Germany, which reportedly ended their free offer this month.
But groups companies have said that, with vaccines, mass and rapid testing has been a game-changer by allowing Britain to open up, and withdrawing too soon.free access could be detrimental.
For sectors such as the hospitality industry, which have been particularly hard hit by months of shutdowns during repeated pandemic shutdowns , free testing has been essential in building confidence in staff and customers.
"If the government did not pay for it, we would like to use the 'government influence to make sure this solution is cost effective for employers,' said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality industry group.
“We have to make sure that we keep that price as low as possible, ” she added. “For small businesses it would be very difficult for them to keep up with that kind of cost. ”
($ 1 = 0.7332 pounds) Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Smout; additional report by William Schomberg, edited by Bill Berkrot
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