In the first case of ending the free mass distribution of Covid tests, Ministers have agreed to stop supplies being sent to universities in England.
At present, universities are advised to get students and staff on campus tested twice a week with later flows. This is even if they are not presenting any symptoms.
However, this measure is now in doubt after the contract to supply these lateral flow kits through the NHS and UK Health Security Agency will not be renewed.
The Guardian’s report claims the cabinet is divided over Covid testing in the future, with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Treasury said to be pushing for an end to free mass testing.
‘Free’ lateral flows were never truly free and were paid for by your taxes. The move is not only controversial as the public are getting less for their money, but health chiefs have criticized it as reckless.
Leaders of higher education institutions were reportedly left surprised by the move. Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis aid: “The ending of the legal agreement which allows universities to hand out lateral flow testing kits to students and staff…is hard to understand.”
“We are asking government for urgent clarification.”
Jo Grady, the general secretary of the University and College Union, accused the government of “playing fast and loose” with campus health and said:
“This approach is reckless and may lead to Covid outbreaks being undetected until it is far too late to limit infections. It is also completely irresponsible for the government to make this change at such short notice.”
When will free university Covid tests end?
The contract to supply lateral flow tests to universities ends on 18 February, 2022.
It appears that after this date, universities cannot distribute any remaining stocks.
A government spokesperson said: “No decisions have been made on the provision of free testing. Everyone can continue to get free tests, including university students and staff who can order from the government website or their local pharmacy.”
However, this contradicts what higher education have been told.