Europe

Covid tests 'to cost £20 per box' when free lateral flows end on April 1

People in the UK who need to check for Covid-19 face paying £3 per lateral flow test, it is thought.

The prime minister unveiled the country’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan yesterday, which will see the free provision of lateral flow tests scrapped by April 1.

The current scheme, which costs £2 billion a month to run, allows people to pick up tests in pharmacies or order them through the Government website at no cost.

But people who choose to keep testing for coronavirus face paying £20 for a box of seven, MailOnline understands.

In comparison, in Europe people can pick up tests for cheaper – for as little as £1 each in France, £1.80 each in Germany and Spain’s Government has capped them at roughly £2.45.

They are however more expensive in the US, with prices ranging from $10 (£7.36) to $25 (£18.39) for a pack of two.

Despite this experts believe lateral flow tests can cost just pennies to make.

Dr Alexander Edwards, an associate professor in biomedical technology at Reading University, said: ‘Lateral flow tests are really cheap to manufacture, what costs is making high quality tests, and following all the regulatory requirements. 

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‘So there is no reason why tests should cost more in UK than elsewhere in Europe, but tests can vary in quality, so it’s possible that the really cheap products are less reliable. 

‘Remember also that the UK hasn’t been an attractive market for suppliers because the free government tests make it unpredictable if or when you can ever sell any here. 

‘So it may take a while for things to even out. As practical advice, I’d suggest to people there really is no need to test all the time – save tests for when they are really important.’

Professor Lawrence Young, a microbiologist from the University of Warwick, warned removing access to free tests ‘will mean that we won’t know who is infected and how the virus is spreading’. 

He added: ‘For those on low incomes who may be less inclined to test because of difficulties with being supported to self-isolate, this will mean ignoring symptoms with the inevitable consequence of spreading infection – including to those who are more vulnerable.’

The Government has not yet confirmed how much lateral flow tests are expected to cost or whether it has landed any deals from manufacturers.

Last winter it was revealed Number 10 had paid around £800 million in return for 380 million swabs from Californian firm Innova.

The UK’s online ordering service for lateral flow tests was also restricted yesterday.

Previously people were able to request a new pack of seven tests every 24 hours, but now a pack can only be ordered every 72 hours.

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