Liberal Democrat Councillors in are calling for lateral flow device tests (LFDs) to continue to be provided to the public free of charge. Councillor Mike Bell, North Somerset Council's Deputy Leader and executive member for public health, warned that the introduction of charges - reported to be under consideration by the government - would risk further damaging the economy and pushing costs onto those least able to pay.
Mike said: "The widespread availability of free lateral flow device tests has really helped people take on board the need to check they are COVID-free before going out to busy places or meeting vulnerable people.
"We need to keep the barriers as low as possible, to help maintain the high rates of voluntary self-testing by individuals. Charging for tests would be a false economy.
"The end of free tests would be bad news for businesses. A lot of public confidence is built on the easy availability of testing and the trust that most people are testing regularly. If this was removed, many would feel less certain about returning to shops, restaurants, pub and venues.
"In addition, many workers are required to take regular tests for their job. These may often be amongst the lowest paid, for example in care, retail and hospitality roles. Pushing a further regular cost onto those least able to pay would be unfair and will add to the cost-of-living crisis facing many residents.
"The government must also take steps to boost LFD (Lateral Flow Devices) supplies. Residents are reporting they can't always easily get hold of tests. They are sometimes unavailable at walk in centres and the Council's testing van was off the road recently due to lack of stocks. This is a significant problem, particularly given requirements to test daily during self-isolation, rather than use a PCR test.
"It's the Government's responsibility to ensure that LFDs remain free of charge and easily available, in order to protect health and the economy.
"As restrictions are eased it is important for anyone taking an LFD test to also register their result - whether positive or negative - on the web portal, as described in the test kit instructions."
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