Calls for free lateral flow tests to return after Covid surge

Free Covid tests should be made available once again as fears of a new wave of the virus grow. NHS campaigners and some MPs handed a petition to Downing Street calling for the return of free lateral flow tests. It comes after a surge in infections that has been linked to the four-day weekend for The Queen's Platinum Jubilee at the start of June.

The UK saw infections rise by 43% to 1.4m cases, MirrorOnline reports. The petition also called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reinstate the isolation requirement for those with a positive test and financial help such as sick pay. Petition lead Dr John Puntis, co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, said: "The Government must take some responsibility for the current level of infection, and a predicted new wave.

"Restoring free lateral flow tests and encouraging self-isolation would help decrease viral spread and protect against new variants and further surges, as well as decreasing the risk of long Covid." Covid-19 infections have risen in all four nations of the UK, with the increase likely to be driven by the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, figures showed last week. The number of people in hospital with Covid is also showing signs of an upwards trend, suggesting the virus is once again becoming more prevalent across the country.

A total of 1.4 million people in private households are estimated to have had the virus last week, up 43% from 989,800 the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Total infections are now back at levels last seen at the start of May, but remain well below the record 4.9 million at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March. The ONS said on Friday the latest increase was "likely caused by infections compatible with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5", which are now thought to be the most dominant variants in much of the UK.

BA.4 and BA.5 are newer strains of coronavirus that were recently classified as "variants of concern", after analysis found both were likely to have a "growth advantage" over BA.2.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "It's absurd the Government has scrapped free lateral flow testing."