Free lateral flow tests could soon be scrapped for the majority of the public within weeks as the UK is told to ‘live with Covid’.
According to The Sunday Times, Boris Johnson is set to announce the new plans within weeks, which will see free tests given out only in high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools, and to people with symptoms.
Contact tracing by NHS Test and Trace could also be scaled back, the newspaper reported.
A senior Whitehall source said: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody forevermore.
“It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing but where we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary, such as in the winter.”
While the Department for Health is yet to comment on the reports, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said there were ‘absolutely not’ any plans to scrap the rapid tests.
When asked if the free tests would be axed, he told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “This is absolutely not where we are at.
“For January alone, 425 million lateral flow tests coming in and they will continue to be available for free… I don’t really recognise where that story is coming from.”
The free rapid tests have been available to everyone in England, including those without symptoms, and have become one of the most popular and time efficient ways of identifying and suppressing Covid.
However, since the start of the pandemic, experts have been warning the government about the cost of the tests and their accuracy in detecting the virus.
With more than £1 billion spent on purchasing lateral flow tests in January 2021, experts told the BMJ that the public was been misled about their accuracy, as well as the risks and implications of false negative results, before calling on the government urgently to change course.
Rishi Sunak boasts about taking money from ‘deprived urban areas’ to give to wealthy towns
His comments have been slammed as ‘scandalous’ by MPs
Rishi Sunak was seen boasting about diverting funding from ‘deprived urban areas’ to wealthy towns in a newly unearthed video.
In the clip, which was obtained and released by The New Statesman today, the former chancellor can be seen proudly telling Conservative members that he had started changing public funding formulas to ensure more affluent towns receive ‘the funding they deserve’.
During the meeting, which is said to have taken place last week in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sunak was heard saying: “I managed to start changing the funding formulas to make sure areas like this are getting the funding they deserve.
“Because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone.
“I started the work of undoing that.”
Sunak’s comments have been met with an overwhelming wave of backlash from both Conservative and Labour MPs alike, with the shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy slamming them as ‘scandalous’.
Nandy tweeted: “This is scandalous. Rishi Sunak is openly boasting that he fixed the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to rich Tory shires This is our money.
“It should be spent fairly and where it’s most needed – not used as a bribe to Tory members. Talk about showing your true colours…”.
Tory MP Jake Berry also condemned the remarks as he attacked Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign, tweeting: “In public @RishiSunak claims he wants to level up the North, but here, he boasts about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas?
“He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up.”
However, a source for Sunak’s prime ministerial campaign did not dispute the video and instead defended it.
They said: “Levelling up isn’t just about city centres, it’s also about towns and rural areas all over the country that need help too. That’s what he changed in the green book and he will follow though as prime minister.
“Travelling around the country, he’s seen non-metropolitan areas that need better bus services, faster broadband or high quality schools. That’s what he’ll deliver as prime minister.”
A vote among the Conservative Party’s membership will choose either Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as the next prime minister. This will be announced on September 5th.
Archie Battersbee cannot be moved to a hospice, High Court rules
Medics have said the risks in transferring Archie to a hospice would be ‘major and unpredictable’
An application to move Archie Battersbee into a hospice has been denied today by the High Court.
The twelve-year-old’s family appealed for the move yesterday (August 4th), saying they wanted to ‘spend his last moments’ together with family privately and give him the opportunity to die ‘peacefully and privately’.
However, medical experts called the risks involved in a transfer to a hospice ‘major and unpredictable’, which the judge agreed with.
The judge has also refused permission to appeal against her ruling after lawyers for the family requested it.
Archie has been described by medics as being in a ‘difficult and increasingly compromised position’.
Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital where Archie is being treated, has said that the youngster’s condition is too unstable for him to be transferred.
They argued that moving him to a hospice via ambulance ‘would most likely hasten the premature deterioration the family wish to avoid, even with full intensive care equipment and staff on the journey’.
The hospital has said a number of arrangements can be made for the family that will ‘ensure that Archie’s best interest will remain the focus of the final arrangements to enable him peacefully and privately to die in the embrace of the family he loved’.
The family may now pursue a challenge directly with the Court of Appeal, with Mrs. Justice Theis today granting a stay on the withdrawal of treatment until 2pm today to allow time for an appeal to be lodged.
Justice Theis said of her ruling, as per Sky News: “Archie’s best interests must remain at the core of any conclusions reached by this court. I return to where I started, recognising the enormity of what lays ahead for Archie’s parents and the family.
“Their unconditional love and dedication to Archie is a golden thread that runs through this case. I hope now Archie can be afforded the opportunity for him to die in peaceful circumstances, with the family who meant so much to him as he clearly does to them.”
Archie was found unconscious in his home in Essex back in April after taking part in what his mother, Hollie Dance, believes to be an online challenge.
Archie has never regained consciousness, and doctors say it is ‘highly likely’ the child is brain stem dead and is only alive through artificial means. His condition has been the centre of a highly-publicised legal battle, with his parents fighting to keep his life support switched on to ‘give him time to recover’.
Former rugby player ‘died after suffering heart attack while beating up girlfriend’
The woman was reportedly left in a wheelchair following the attack
A former British Rugby League player died after suffering a heart attack as he ‘viciously beat up’ his girlfriend on holiday in Italy.
Jennie Platt, forty-four, needed three operations after she was allegedly beaten up by her boyfriend Ricky Bibey, forty, in their room at the Hotel Continentale in Florence, in the early hours of July 16th.
Jennie, who runs Jennie Platt Estates and Lettings in Manchester, has arrived back in the UK after a hospital stay in Florence, but has not been well enough to return to work due to ‘significant’ injuries said to have left her in a wheelchair.
A family friend told the MailOnline that Jennie was devastated after the ‘shocking and violent’ attack.
They said: “She has been doing all she can to help the Italian authorities piece together what happened that night, speaking to them as a witness and as a victim of a domestic assault.”
The friend added that, because Ricky had been well liked and respected in the Rugby League community, it was likely that people would find it difficult to hear what happened.
They said Jennie had suffered a number of serious injuries, including one to her eye socket which was ‘very worrying’. She is currently in a wheelchair while she recovers from the assault, they added.
An autopsy showed that Ricky, who made appearances for England, Wigan Warriors, Leigh Centurions and St. Helens, died from a heart attack.
While toxicology results are yet to be confirmed, police said Ricky had taken both alcohol and cocaine, a combination they believe provoked his death.
Platt’s lawyer Stefano Goldstein said in a statement: “My client Jennie was the victim of terrible assault and needed several operations during a lengthy stay in hospital.
“She has cooperated fully with the authorities who are investigating the matter and we expect the case to be closed within the next few days but for Jennie the trauma of what happened will not end as she will need medical care in England.
“Jennie has explained to the police that the night Ricky died he was completely out of control and that he had attacked her.”
They expect the case to be closed in the coming days.
If you or anyone you know are victims of domestic violence, you can contact the Greater Manchester Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 254 0909, or alternatively visit the Domestic Abuse Helpline website.