They say that you shouldn’t believe anything until it has been officially denied. Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi has been doing the Sunday media telling us all that the Government “absolutely” has no plans to stop sending out free lateral flow tests to people. This is news to our health spokesperson Daisy Cooper who says that Ministers have already said to her that they would.
In Scotland, we are asked to test before we meet anyone, so my family of three is currently going through a box of seven tests every week. Everyone should be testing a couple of times a week as a matter of course.
My Facebook timeline has been full of friends posting pictures of their positive lateral flow tests for weeks and only discovered through testing that they had the virus and needed to stay away from others. If they had not tested, they may have gone home and visited Granny at Christmas time and spread the virus to her and other vulnerable members of their families.
Many others have been feeling pretty awful with what is supposedly a “mild” version of the virus, a reminder of how unpleasant t can be. And while hospitalisations and deaths are not, thankfully, rising in proportion with the huge rise in cases, the longer term damage from things like Long Covid is as yet unknown.
Zahawi’s denial certainly doesn’t convince me. We know already that there are tensions in the Government between those who want us all to get on with it and live with Covid with no government support and intervention and those who want us to get on with it and live with Covid with minimal support and intervention.
On the immediate issue of free lateral flow tests, Daisy said that the Government must not plunge us into a “cost of living with Covid” crisis and that the tests should remain free as long as people were being asked to self isolate:
It seems this Government is happy to hand out billions in crooked Covid contracts to their chums, but intends to scrap free covid tests plunging millions into a cost of living with Covid crisis.
Scrapping free tests when cases are at record levels would be hugely counter-productive and would hit those who can least afford it hardest, at a time when families are already being clobbered by rising taxes and energy bills.
It’s clear that the Government’s left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Ministers have already confirmed to me that they will end free lateral flows but today said on national TV that they wouldn’t.
Now is not the time to throw in the towel in the fight against Covid. The Government must guarantee free Lateral Flow Tests for as long as they are asking people to self-isolate.
A few of our peers have drawn attention on Twitter to this thread which warns the Government against allowing a devastating virus like Covid becoming endemic.
A virus isn't endemic just cos a govt minister says it is and just cos people want it to be.
The current pattern of waning vax, new immune evasive variants, and minimal public health response seem set to doom us to massive surges once or twice a year. 15
— Prof. Christina Pagel (@chrischirp) January 9, 2022
Professor Pagel highlighted the efforts by previous governments to rid us of diseases like Smallpox, TB, Measles, Rubella, Polio and Typhoid.
As Autumn drew to a close, my anxiety about Covid and its risk to me and other vulnerable members of my family was becoming almost manageable as we were getting our boosters. Omicron, and a Conservative Government that really doesn’t seem to know or care what it’s doing and an SNP Government in Scotland that’s trying to be different but not getting much of a different outcome, have sent my anxiety soaring again. I see little cause for optimism as vulnerable people are basically being told to get on with it and suffer the consequences.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings