Scrapping free Covid tests risks exposing UK to new variants, scientists warn

A top immunologist has warned we will be ‘flying blind’ if free lateral flow tests are scrapped as Britain could be exposed to new variants.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil his living with Covid plan for England next week, which could also see the ending of mandatory isolation for those testing positive for Covid-19, MirrorOnline reports.

It’s understood he will announce the ending of restrictions in England a month earlier than originally planned due to falling cases, the less potent Omicron strain, and the success of the vaccine roll out.

This could include naming the date when when free lateral flow tests will end.

But scientists fear the UK could become open to a wave of new variants.

Immunologist Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College London said: “We will be flying blind.

“Data collection is the only trick up our sleeve to know about new variants coming round the corner.”

The Omicron virus has 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 better off will know they have Covid.

“But those on low pay will not be able to protect themselves.”

Hannah Brady of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice said the change would create a “two-tier system”.

She said: “People who have to choose between heating and eating will have to decide whether to pay for a Covid test.”

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

GP Dr Helen Salisbury of Oxford University said: “People can’t feel safe if they don’t have access to tests. We’d like to see the science behind this decision.”

GP Dr Helen Salisbury of Oxford University said: “We’d like to see the science behind this decision.”

But Independent Sage poured cold water on the prospect of a second booster jab.

Virologist Dr Steve Griffin of Leeds University said: “Logistically it’s going to be difficult to do more than one a year.”

Latest research by America’s Center for Disease Control shows booster protection from hospitalization wanes from 91 per cent to 78 per cent after four months.

But the US still has no plans to give a second booster. Israel began offering fourth jabs to health workers in December and Sweden recommends them for the over 80s.

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