Covid-19 (Recovery Strategy) (Lateral Flow Test Provision)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 April 2022.

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Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of any potential impact on its Covid recovery strategy of its decision to end the universal provision of lateral flow tests. (S6O-00994)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Our decision to transition from regular lateral flow testing for the general public is based on the latest available evidence and advice from public health officials and clinicians. Throughout the pandemic, the Scottish Government has made decisions based on expert advice, and we will continue to do so as we support recovery.

Some groups will remain eligible for free lateral flow testing, including unpaid carers and personal assistants, people who are visiting a hospital or care home, and people in relation to whom it is advised as part of a clinical care plan.

Alongside our evolving response to the pandemic, the Scottish Government’s Covid recovery strategy will continue to focus effort and resources on bringing about a fairer future, particularly for those who have been most impacted during the pandemic.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

One of the stated aims of the Scottish Government’s Covid recovery strategy is to improve access to services where provision was restricted by the pandemic. Although health and social care workers will continue to be able to access free lateral flow tests, other front-line workers from teachers to hospitality staff will no longer have access to them for routine workplace testing. That could lead to access to services such as schools and restaurants being disrupted, especially as Scotland’s infection rates remain high. Will the Government consider expanding access to free lateral flow tests to all front-line workers to ensure a fair and safe Covid recovery?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I understand the significance of Mercedes Villalba’s point, particularly in relation to individuals who had their access to services disrupted during the pandemic, such as those accessing day centres and other provision of that type, which I suspect lies at the heart of her question.

In recognising the fact that we are emerging from what I might describe as the intensity of the pandemic into a position in which we are managing the pandemic and its prevalence in the community, we have tried to take a proportionate approach with regard to the availability of lateral flow testing. Where there might be a risk of greater intensity of infection in healthcare settings, we enable that arrangement still to be applied. We will, of course, continue to review that approach on the basis of infection levels in society.

Although we have had a period of intense Covid infection in our community, it is encouraging that that is showing signs of consistent decline, which is very welcome for the forthcoming period.

Photo of Stephanie Callaghan Stephanie Callaghan Scottish National Party

Although it is welcome that testing remains free of charge to those with health conditions, what consideration is the Scottish Government giving to expanding the availability of free lateral flow tests to those, such as family members, who are close contacts of people in high-risk categories?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The vaccination programme is the principal measure that we put in place to ensure population-wide resilience, and we have had phenomenal participation in that programme.

With the availability of new Covid treatments, the reliance on the testing approach is not as significant as it was in the past. As I have indicated, we are using lateral flow tests in a targeted way to support clinical care and to protect those in high-risk settings. From 1 May, anyone eligible for Covid treatments, unpaid carers and anyone visiting a hospital or care home can still order lateral flow tests online or by phoning 119.