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Thursday, August 11, 2022

UK Covid live: cabinet meets to sign off end of all restrictions after delay over ‘testing row’ | Politics

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For those just joining today, here’s a refresher on why Boris Johnson’s statement in the Commons did not take place as 2:30pm as planned.


My colleagues Jessica Elgot and Rowena Mason have looked into what happened this morning:

The prime minister’s announcement on his plan to end most Covid rules in England was delayed at the last minute amid a row between the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, over funds for free testing.


Cabinet ministers were told of the delay as they arrived at No 10 on Monday morning during the final wrangling over the “living with Covid” strategy expected to be announced to the House of Commons in the afternoon.

No 10 acknowledged the plan was yet to be completed with just hours to go, with sources confirming there was disagreement over how much should be spent on providing free Covid tests for older and vulnerable people.

Johnson will announce the strategy later on Monday afternoon to the House of Commons, and is likely to announce an end to mandatory isolation, contact tracing and most PCR and lateral flow testing for Covid in the community.


The Guardian revealed last week that there was a split between Sunak and Javid over how much cash should continue to be spent on testing, with the Treasury pushing for as little as £1.3bn – a 90% cut from this year’s £15bn forecast spend. The Department of Health and Social Care had asked for billions more, which could have funded free lateral flow tests for symptomatic over-50s, but this was rejected by the Treasury.


The dispute is now centred on whether the DHSC could use some of its existing budget for a continuation of more community testing for longer.

A government source said there was still no agreement between the Treasury and the DHSC on the extent of the testing cuts, although another source at the DHSC said Javid had accepted the position that most testing must end.

The source denied Javid was seeking new money and said that instead he wanted to move funds from other areas within the department to cover the additional testing. “DHSC are absolutely not asking for additional funding; they want to reprioritise within the existing budget,” the source said.

One of the issues has been that the DHSC asked for enough funding for testing to ensure the survival of the Panoramic antiviral drugs trial, which officials believe would need free lateral flow tests for over-50s and vulnerable adults under 50 until at least September. However, officials are now looking at alternative ways of funding the recruitment of people for the trial.

Read the full story here:



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