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People in England are already being discouraged from ordering free lateral flow tests online ahead of the mass swabbing programme being axed entirely next week.

Those who try to order a pack of Covid tests from the Government’s website are met with a new message telling them supplies are needed for the vulnerable.

‘Most tests are now needed for people at higher risk,’ according to the online ordering system.

‘In England, most people without Covid-19 symptoms no longer need to take rapid lateral flow tests.

‘Some people still need tests to stay safe, like: NHS staff; people who are at higher risk; people who are visiting high-risk places. We want to make sure tests are available for people who need them most.’

Lateral flows will no longer be free in England from April 1, as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘Living With Covid’ strategy. Stocks will be limited to vulnerable people. High street giants such as Boots and Superdrug will sell the kits for as little as £2. 

'Most tests are now needed for people at higher risk,' according to the online ordering system

'Most tests are now needed for people at higher risk,' according to the online ordering system

‘Most tests are now needed for people at higher risk,’ according to the online ordering system

Free universal testing for the virus will come to an end on April 1, with free tests only being made available to the most vulnerable

Free universal testing for the virus will come to an end on April 1, with free tests only being made available to the most vulnerable

Free universal testing for the virus will come to an end on April 1, with free tests only being made available to the most vulnerable

Scotland will stop handing out free lateral flow tests in May, while Wales will keep the swabs available until the end of June. Northern Ireland is yet to iron out its plans

Scotland will stop handing out free lateral flow tests in May, while Wales will keep the swabs available until the end of June. Northern Ireland is yet to iron out its plans

Scotland will stop handing out free lateral flow tests in May, while Wales will keep the swabs available until the end of June. Northern Ireland is yet to iron out its plans

Scientists questioned the decision to scrap free mass testing, saying the move was premature and that swabbing was essential to keep tabs on any future flare-ups and help curb the spread of Covid.

But business leaders, Tory MPs and some experts all backed Boris Johnson’s decision to scale back the expensive programme, which the Prime Minister claimed cost up to £2billion a month.

Scotland will stop handing out free lateral flow tests in May, while Wales will keep the swabs available until the end of June. Northern Ireland is yet to iron out its plans.

But there has been confusion within the NHS as to whether tests will still be free for staff.

The NHS Confederation said that workers may be forced to fork out about £50 a month for tests if they have to pay themselves, as it called for clarity over the issue.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that more details would be set out ‘shortly’.

Free universal testing for the virus will come to an end on April 1, with free tests only being made available to the most vulnerable.

Officials have previously said that the number of free tests available each day will be capped to ‘manage demand’ as the Government scales back free testing for people in England.

The public have been encouraged not to stockpile test packs but since ministers announced the end of the free testing programme for most of the population it has been difficult for many to access them.

But the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that availability is refreshed regularly.

A UKHSA spokesperson said: ‘As set out in the Living With Covid plan, from April 1 free tests will only be available for certain groups who are at most risk from the virus.

‘In preparation for this change, the gov.uk home ordering channel is asking users to only order test kits if you’re eligible for new Covid-19 treatments, work or volunteer in a high-risk setting or support people who are at higher risk from Covid-19.

‘Tests should only be ordered after you have used up any kits you already have at home.’

It comes after MailOnline this week revealed how health officials admitted that the Covid testing regime did not cost £2billion-a-month.

Mr Johnson told MPs in February the Test and Trace programme cost that amount ‘in January alone’ at the height of the Omicron wave.

UKHSA bosses later sneaked out a document to say the figure quoted by the PM was just a ‘volatile’ estimate and ‘may not reflect the true expenditure’.

Senior officials then wrongly portrayed the £2bn as the monthly cost, with Business Minister Paul Scully saying on LBC the day after the PM’s statement that the country could not bear the ongoing testing bill.

MPs said the UKHSA document, published on March 3 during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, raised questions about the Government’s decision to axe free swabs.

Source: Daily Mail

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