Politics

Covid Scotland: Universal free testing to end from April 18



The First Minister told MSPs on Tuesday that guidance for people to test twice weekly will end from April 18.

Advice to take a PCR test if you have symptoms, as well as using a lateral flow daily for seven days after a positive test, will be scrapped at the end of April, Ms Sturgeon said.

Contact tracing will also cease from the end of next month, but people with symptoms of respiratory illnesses will be asked to stay at home.

The First Minister said that, from May 1, the Scottish Government will move to a more targeted testing system.

 

READ MORE: Facemask law extended until April – but free lateral flow kits for all set to end

The shift, she said, was brought about due to funding constraints caused by the UK Government’s changes to its testing regime.

“Regrettably, our freedom of manoeuvre here is severely limited by the fact that our funding is determined by UK Government decisions taken for England,” she told MSPs.

“However, we have sought as far as we can to reach the right decisions for Scotland.

“It is important to note that we are aiming for the same long-term position as England on testing. However, we consider that the transition should be longer.

“In England, testing for people without symptoms ended in mid-February, and will do so at the end of this month for those with symptoms.

“We intend the transition to last until the end of April.

“This is as far as we can go within funding constraints, but it allows us to take account of current case numbers, and better support the shift in our management of the virus.”

 

READ MORE: Five key points from Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid update as face coverings rules remain

The First Minister assured MSPs that, for as long as the Scottish Government advised testing, it would be free for those who would need it.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross asked Ms Sturgeon how much she expected free testing to cost, saying the cash could be better spent on easing the treatment backlog in the NHS.

“I’ve got news for Douglas Ross,” the First Minister said.

“We’ll have to fund all of our continued testing requirement including the more proportionate, targeted testing system that will be in place for the longer term because the consequentials are not continuing.

“These decisions are driven by the situation that the UK Government arrives at for England.”

She added: “We will continue to assess the overall cost of testing over the next period.

“The overall cost will depend on factors such as outbreaks, it will depend on whether or not we see any new variants emerging and we will have to flex that cost based on the situation.”

The First Minister went on to say the cost would be a “relatively small part” of the overall price.

Other key points from the Covid update:

  • Scotland is making “steady progress back to normal life”, Nicola Sturgeon has insisted, despite pushing back the date for ditching laws for people to wear face coverings on public transport and in some settings.
  • Legal requirement to wear face coverings to continue beyond planned end date of March 21 with the “expectation” that it will become guidance rather than the law in “early April”.
  • The First Minister stressed that, apart from the face covering rule, “every single legal measure” will have been lifted.




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