Wales will have to find money to continue free Covid testing says UK Government’s Welsh representative
The Welsh Government will have to find its own money if it wants to continue free Covid testing, the UK Government’s Welsh representative has said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed this afternoon that free testing in England would come to an end on 1 April. That means that the Welsh Government will no longer get its population share of money spent on the programme.
The Welsh Government has criticised the move, with First Minister Mark Drakeford saying that “any decision to change the existing National Testing Programme would be premature and reckless”.
The UK Government’s Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, however, said that Wales could continue to offer tests for free but would have to find the money out of its own budget to do so.
“We have to learn to live with COVID,” he said. “The Prime Minister has outlined a balanced plan to help us achieve that.
“Mass testing costs around £2 billion per month – surely our resource, funding and effort is a better use with a more targeted approach?
“If Welsh Government want to continue funding blanket testing going forward then that is a decision for them, they already have the adequate resource and funding to do so.
“This will mean tough decisions against other priorities, but that’s what mature governance is all about.”
Earlier Mark Drakeford said that tests had played a pivotal role in breaking chains of transmission and it was “essential that this continues”.
“Any decision to effectively turn off the tap on our National Testing Programme, with no future plans in place to reactivate it, would put people at risk,” he said.
“In Wales, we’ll continue to make decisions to protect the health of people based on the scientific evidence available to us.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also expressed concern over the plans.
“The reality of UK finance flows means this decision determines the money devolved administrations (paid for by taxpayers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have for testing,” she said.
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