nding free coronavirus tests would be a “mistake”, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Boris Johnson has been preparing to unveil his plan for “living with Covid”.
But the Labour leader urged ministers not to force Britons to pay for tests as Covid regulations are wound down.
The Prime Minister reportedly is considering plans to change the law so that everyone – including vulnerable people, children and healthcare workers –will have to pay to access tests for the virus, according to LBC.
Lateral flow and PCR tests are currently available free of charge, though the Treasury reportedly believes the estimated £10 billion annual cost of the scheme is not sustainable as it seeks to reduce the deficit.
In place of a general testing programme, ministers will rely on data from Covid surveillance schemes to monitor the spread of the virus.
Mandatory self-isolation for those who test positive will also come to an end as part of Mr Johnson’s “living with Covid” plan.
Sir Keir told The Guardian it would “be a mistake to end free Covid tests” – though he stopped short of saying whether he agreed with ending quarantine measures.
The Government has previously indicated “universal free provision” of lateral flow tests will eventually come to an end.
A Government spokesperson said no decisions had yet been made on free testing in response to LBC’s report.
“Testing continues to play an important role in helping people live their day-to-day lives, keep businesses running and keep young people in school,” they said.
The Scientific Advisory group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the Government, said last week that ending free testing would make it harder for people to take precautions.
It would “also increase anxiety among those who have found testing reassuring after possible exposure, particularly those who are or live with someone who is clinically vulnerable”.
Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson Daisy Coper said scrapping free tests while prevalence of the virus was still high would “leave the public and scientists flying blind”.
The UK has carried out more than 463 million tests since the beginning of the pandemic – one of the highest rates in the world.
All Covid restrictions had been due to expire on March 24 but Mr Johnson told MPs he expects they can end a month sooner if the data continues to be encouraging.
It means in just over two weeks England could be returned to levels of freedom enjoyed before the pandemic for the first time since restrictions were brought in almost two years ago.