Removing free testing will create a ‘two-tier system’ and open the UK to a wave of new variants, scientists say

Removing free Covid tests will open the nation to a wave of dangerous new variants, scientists have warned.

Boris Johnson is due to end mandatory isolation when he unveils a long-term plan for living with the virus on Monday.

It is believed the Prime Minister will also announce the date when free lateral flow testing will end.


But immunologist Professor Danny Altmann, from Imperial College London, said ending free testing would leave the public ‘flying blind’. The Mirror reports.

“Data collection is the only trick up our sleeve to know what new variants are coming,” he said.

The Omicron virus has already mutated into a new version – BA.2 – which is now dominant in Northern Ireland and responsible for a fifth of cases in England and Scotland.

Dr Zubaida Haque of Independent Sage said: “This will have a huge impact. The wealthiest will know that they have the Covid.

“But those with a low salary will not be able to protect themselves.”

Free trials are about to be phased out

Hannah Brady of Covid Bereaved Families for Justice added: “It will create a two-tier system.

“People who have to choose between heating and eating will have to decide whether or not to pay for a Covid test.”

A box of 20 tests on the open market should cost around £55.

General practitioner Helen Salisbury, of the University of Oxford, also questioned the decision.

“People can’t feel safe if they don’t have access to testing,” she said.

“We would like to see the science behind this decision.”

Meanwhile, Independent Sage poured cold water on the prospect of a second encore.

Virologist Dr Steve Griffin, from the University of Leeds, said: “Logistically it will be difficult to do more than one a year.”

The latest research from the US Center for Disease Control shows that recall protection against hospitalization drops by 91% to 78% after four months.

But the United States still has no plans to issue a second booster.

Israel began offering fourth shots to health workers in December, and Sweden recommends them for people over 80.

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