Daisy Cooper: Government must keep free lateral flow tests as long as they ask people to self isolate

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.

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

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26 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 9th Jan '22 - 1:08pm

    Good article except that the charge that the SNP is ‘trying to be different’ is not particularly fair – the reality is that the government’s of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each taking very similar decisions and it is the UK government, on behalf of England, that is acting out of line of the others.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Jan '22 - 2:09pm

    Come on, let’s be crystal clear. Abolishing free covid tests is just another way of enriching Johnson’s chums. Make people pay gives testing companies more money and stopping paying for them out of public funds enables tax cuts for the wealthy.

  • Mick Taylor 9th Jan '22 - 2:10pm

    It’s nothing to with health or living with the virus, it’s about money, power and corruption

  • Brad Barrows 9th Jan ’22 – 1:08pm:
    …the reality is that the government’s of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each taking very similar decisions and it is the UK government, on behalf of England, that is acting out of line of the others.

    “Out of line” because cases in England are rising less fast?

    ‘Covid case rates in Wales rising three times faster than England’s despite tougher restrictions’ [7th. January 2022]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/01/07/covid-cases-wales-rising-three-times-faster-englands-despite/

    People in Wales have been living under alert level two measures since Boxing Day. The measures include mandatory face coverings in all indoor settings, a six-person limit for meeting in public places and the closure of nightclubs.

    Despite the measures, the country’s Covid cases have almost doubled since Dec 26, with an overall increase of 94 per cent, according to the latest government data. In comparison, England’s cases have increased by only 34 per cent.

    The latest figures show there are more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales, compared to 1,271 across England.

  • Brad Barrows 9th Jan ’22 – 1:08pm:
    …the reality is that the government’s of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each taking very similar decisions and it is the UK government, on behalf of England, that is acting out of line of the others.

    “Out of line” because cases in England are rising less fast?

    ‘Covid case rates in Wales rising three times faster than England’s despite tougher restrictions’ [7th. January 2022]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/01/07/covid-cases-wales-rising-three-times-faster-englands-despite/

    People in Wales have been living under alert level two measures since Boxing Day. The measures include mandatory face coverings in all indoor settings, a six-person limit for meeting in public places and the closure of nightclubs.

    Despite the measures, the country’s Covid cases have almost doubled since Dec 26, with an overall increase of 94 per cent, according to the latest government data. In comparison, England’s cases have increased by only 34 per cent.

    The latest figures show there are more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales, compared to 1,271 across England.

  • Barry Lofty 9th Jan '22 - 4:31pm

    The UK is 7th in the world for the number of deaths due to Covid, not something to be proud of and I know where I would lay he blame!

  • So what are you trying to say, Jeff? Wales would have fewer cases if we had fewer restrictions? That England is doing something better than us? (Love to know what, if so).

  • Headline in “i” paper today is “PM expected to announce living with Covid plan by March”.
    The cynic in me suggests that, to the PM, falling in line with, and thus gaining the support of, the more radical of the Tory party is infinitely more important than the health of the people of this country. I say this because the PM will do anything to cling on to his position. No doubt, such a plan will be hailed as “world-beating”; regrettably, looking @Barry Lofty’s post above, all it will do is to move us up from only 7th in the world to nearer the top. Fully agree with what you say, Barry.

  • David [email protected] David I also agree with your assessment on Johnson’s reasoning for us living with Covid, you do not have to be cynical to read him like a book!!

  • Cassie 9th Jan ’22 – 5:27pm:
    So what are you trying to say, Jeff? Wales would have fewer cases if we had fewer restrictions?

    That, predictably, those restrictions make no material difference to the number of cases. The primary mode of transmission is via aerosolised virus which spreads out and fills a room like cigarette smoke. It can hang in the air for hours in a shop or pub waiting for new hosts to breathe it in. Omicron is highly infectious. The idea that transmission can be reduced by standing a metre apart is just silly…

    ‘Ease ineffective Covid restrictions, Nicola Sturgeon told, as Scotland’s case rate overtakes England’s’ [9th. January 2022]:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/01/09/ease-ineffective-covid-restrictions-nicola-sturgeon-told-scotlands/

    Pubs and bars in Scotland are being forced to operate with one-metre social distancing, thereby reducing capacity, and table service.

  • @Jeff – ” The idea that transmission can be reduced by standing a metre apart is just silly…”
    It is based on science (as I’m sure you know), however, as you note too many establishments (and homes) don’t have (CoViD) adequate ventilation (or if it does it isn’t being used – too draughty and heating is becoming increasingly expensive) and thus permit the build-up of virus in the air…

  • It is all very well for Prof Pagel (from the fringe “Independent Sage” group) to object to living with COVID but what are her proposals for how to eliminate it?

    The vaccines don’t stop transmission so you can’t eliminate it that way (unlike with Smallpox and Measles).

    You certainly can’t eliminate a virus like Covid with mass testing. So I think Zero COVID is a fantasy.

  • @ Martin

    The smallpox vaccine was a sterilising vaccine whilst measles antibodies last for a lifetime. Neither of those features apply to COVID vaccines.

    So I’m struggling to see how elimination would actually work and I think attempts to do so would use up monumental resources ie £trillions upon trillions without success.

  • @Marco “It is all very well for Prof Pagel (from the fringe “Independent Sage” group) to object to living with COVID but what are her proposals for how to eliminate it?”

    I think much depends on what is meant by “living with it”.
    There are some who think we should have simply lived with the variant (and its descendants alpha and delta) doing the rounds during the first lockdown and were blind to what was going on in the hospitals. I think it is this form of do-nothing complacency and the daftness of the Conservative backbenchers that Prof Pagel is rallying against.

  • @ Martin

    What I was saying is that if you have antibodies against measles they provide lifelong protection against reinfection unless your immune system weakens whereas for respiratory viruses such as coronaviruses, the antibodies wane after a few months (whether induced by vaccines or natural infection) which is why we keep catching colds.

    That is not something to be overly worried about as T-cells should provide protection against severe illness.

    I am not sure what you mean by “suppression” but the fact is that unless COVID can be eliminated altogether we will all catch it eventually. Better now rather than later?

  • Roland 10th Jan ’22 – 3:07pm:
    It is based on science (as I’m sure you know), however, as you note too many establishments (and homes) don’t have (CoViD) adequate ventilation

    Social distancing indoors is a largely futile gesture with a variant as transmissible as Omicron. It’s an example of “droplet dogma”. Aerosolised virus is now known to be the principal vector. People move about indoors and exhaled virus laden air will spread throughout a room by advection and diffusion.

    Good ventilation is an important mitigating measure that should have been promoted from the start. Unfortunately, the medical establishment and most (some might say, a consensus of) epidemiologists held to the doctrine that respiratory viruses are primarily transmitted by droplets. Hence, the focus on social distancing and hand-washing rather than ventilation. A small number of scientists, mainly from other disciplines, considered this model implausible. They cited many events where infections had occurred at a distance indicating that the virus was airborne. Their evidence for aerosol transmission was dismissed and their manuscripts rejected. Then, in 2021 they discovered an historical error in the medical canon which, for decades, had caused aerosol transmission to be fallaciously discounted. The medical establishment grudgingly accepted they had been wrong and updated their advice…

    ‘The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill’ [May 2021]:
    https://www.wired.com/story/the-teeny-tiny-scientific-screwup-that-helped-covid-kill/

    On Friday, April 30, the WHO quietly updated a page on its website. In a section on how the coronavirus gets transmitted, the text now states that the virus can spread via aerosols as well as larger droplets. […] …perhaps the biggest news of the pandemic passed with no news conference, no big declaration. If you weren’t paying attention, it was easy to miss.

    After the WHO updated its advice, the NHS launched a campaign under the banner “Take Care – Refresh Your Air”, but it seems to have blown away on the wind. An online search finds little promotion now with just one page by local government: step forward Peter Tavy Parish Council…

    Take Care – Refresh Your Air:
    http://www.petertavyparishcouncil.org/take-care-refresh-you-air/

  • Martin 10th Jan ’22 – 10:00pm:
    Jeff appears to think the inverse square law is ‘silly’,…

    One wonders why we banned smoking from pubs and offices when all that was needed was to keep people a metre apart. If only we’d known.

  • Barry Lofty 9th Jan ’22 – 4:31pm:
    The UK is 7th in the world for the number of deaths due to Covid,…

    Deaths per million is the generally accepted comparator. The UK is now down to 30th. having been ‘undertaken’ by four other countries over recent weeks. Trinidad and Tobago and Russia are likely to do so shortly. There are now 20 countries in Europe with more deaths per million than the UK. A recent ONS analysis of excess deaths suggests that UK Covid deaths may have been over-counted.

    Considering the inherent challenges that the UK faced – exceptionally high international travel and trade, high population density with many multigenerational households, large ethnic minorities with cultural ’vaccine hesitancy’, high rates of obesity, large numbers of older people with comorbidities, widespread vitamin D deficiency, etc. – the UK has not performed too badly despite several missteps.

    Reported Cases and Deaths by Country or Territory:
    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

    Just click on the Deaths/1M pop column head.

  • Roland 11th Jan ’22 – 10:24am:
    I think it is this form of do-nothing complacency and the daftness of the Conservative backbenchers that Prof Pagel is rallying against.

    We’re in a different situation now to October 2020 when the Great Barrington Declaration was made and Professor Sunetra Gupta wrongly claimed that we’d already obtained ‘herd’ immunity. Today, over 98% of the UK population have Covid antibodies (from vaccination or prior infection). That immunity is currently being augmented by the spread of Omicron as it displaces the more severe Delta variant.

    The Covid Recovery Group have been advocating a way forward as the virus becomes endemic. They were perhaps a little ahead of the curve in their thinking, but others are now catching up…

    ‘End mass jabs and live with Covid, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce’ [8th. January 2022]:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/08/end-mass-jabs-and-live-with-covid-says-ex-head-of-vaccine-taskforce

    Dr Clive Dix says we should treat the virus like flu.

    Covid should be treated as an endemic virus similar to flu, and ministers should end mass-vaccination after the booster campaign, the former chairman of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has said. […]

    “We now need to manage disease, not virus spread. So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

  • David Goble 10th Jan ’22 – 12:33pm:
    Headline in “i” paper today is “PM expected to announce living with Covid plan by March”

    March? Rather sooner than that I would have thought.

    The cynic in me suggests that, to the PM, falling in line with, and thus gaining the support of, the more radical of the Tory party is infinitely more important than the health of the people of this country.

    The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    No doubt, such a plan will be hailed as “world-beating”;

    It’s already being done in South Africa and Australia…

    ‘The Australian Protocol’ [22nd. December 2022]:

  • Barry Lofty 11th Jan '22 - 5:36pm

    [email protected] I do not want to be rude but you can quote all the figures you like but it will not change my opinion that this Government, especially early on, were complicit in the needless deaths of many of our citizens, especially those of my generation.
    Their attitude was compounded by a PM who Trumplike, shook hands with Covid victims to prove that Covid was no worse than flu,, we all know what happened next and people felt sorry for him????

  • @ Martin

    You can get infected with the same virus twice it doesn’t have to mutate to reinfect you. A variant may be more likely to evade antibodies but the antibodies produced against coronaviruses do wane enough for reinfection.

    So you suppress COVID, you avoid it for years then finally it gets you. What’s the point of that?

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