RESIDENTS and MPs across the North East have reacted to news that Covid-19 lateral flow tests could move to no longer be free – amid supply issues and the rising costs of creating the equipment.

During the pandemic, the tests have been used to pick up the virus in people who are asymptomatic and have been available through the main Government website and through pharmacies and work settings in England.

However, some reports circulating yesterday (January 10) suggested that the free lateral flow tests could be scrapped under new proposals from the government – making way for the tests to be purely for people in schools, care settings and hospitals.

Read more: People who test positive on lateral flows no longer need PCR

The rapid tests were made available to everyone in England, including those without symptoms, in April.

The government has spent more than £6bn on mass testing.

It comes as the UK recorded more than 150,000 Covid cases and a further 313 deaths on Saturday.

The Northern Echo: Lateral flow tests tell asymptomatic people whether they have Covid-19.Lateral flow tests tell asymptomatic people whether they have Covid-19.

A Government source is reported as telling national newspapers: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody.

“It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing, but we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary.”

Despite the suggestions on the future of lateral flow tests, Labour MPs in the North East have attacked the government for even considering the idea of leaving mass testing behind, in favour for not picking up Covid-19 cases from people who are asymptomatic.

Read more: What are the new rules for people who test positive for Covid on lateral flow tests?

City of Durham MP, Mary Kelly Foy, has highlighted her hopes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet will be “true to their words” in keeping LFT’s in place for the remainder of the pandemic.

She said: “As I was watching Sky News this morning the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, was asked if there were any plans to stop free lateral flow tests, to which he explicitly responded, "absolutely not". 

“The Government has given us many reasons to doubt them during the pandemic - I sincerely hope that they remain true to their word this time.”

The Northern Echo: Mary Kelly Foy MP (City of Durham) ands Kevan Jones MP (North Durham) have spoken out about not scrapping free lateral flow tests.Mary Kelly Foy MP (City of Durham) ands Kevan Jones MP (North Durham) have spoken out about not scrapping free lateral flow tests.

Similar comments were also made by North Durham MP, Kevan Jones, who believes that the government “owe” the public and need to clarify the situation over lateral flows soon.

He said: “Vaccination and testing have been vital in the fight against the covid virus. With the infections having doubled in the last week in County Durham now is not the time to limit peoples access to Lateral flow tests. The Government needs to urgently clarify its position.”

These comments from MPs in the region come after The Northern Echo ran a poll on whether lateral flows should be free, which found an overwhelming number of people urging the government to keep them free.

Read more: Boris Johnson warned against scaling back free lateral flow tests

Within the poll, one social media user backed LFTs, saying: “They need to remain free because some people will not be able to afford them and will unintentionally spread the virus,” while another commented: “They should be free, if not it’s just adding to wealth/health inequality which is already a disgrace.”

However, the poll was far from unanimous, with some calling on the government to start charging for the tests, others highlighting that LFTs should be scrapped altogether and some suggesting that lateral flow tests weren’t actually free anyway, due to people paying taxes.

One person replied: “Get rid of them,” while another said: “No they should be made to pay for them then maybe they wouldn't test themselves every five minutes.”

Despite infections hitting record highs after the emergence of Omicron, admissions to hospital and deaths have not followed the same trajectory.

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