SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said any plans to scrap free lateral flow tests will put the public in danger.
Mr McGrath said creating barriers in accessing the tests would lead to less people using them and people with Covid-19 unknowingly spreading the virus.
He was speaking after reports the British government are planning to axe free lateral flow tests.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“Reports that the British government are planning to scrap free access to lateral flow tests for the general public have caused significant alarm. These reports are particularly stark after the recent change in guidance that allow people to use lateral flow tests to confirm they have tested positive for Covid-19, with no need for a PCR.
“Lateral flow tests are a key tool in stopping the spread of Covid-19. They allow people to test themselves wherever they are and facilitate early detection of positive cases. If we remove free access to these tests we will end up in a situation where people are unable to access them and stop testing themselves. We know that large numbers of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic so we will end up in a situation where large numbers of people with Covid-19 are unaware they have the virus and unwittingly spread it throughout the community.
“Charging people for these tests would be an extremely short-sighted move, many people in our society would be simply unable to afford them. People are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, the cost of groceries and other essential items are through the roof, energy bills are at a record high and families are struggling to get by.
“If these reports are true I would urge the British government to reconsider this move, particularly at this critical juncture. The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is spreading like wildfire and we are seeing thousands of new cases every day in the North alone. Without free and easy access to these tests we will see more people catching Covid-19, spreading it and further serious illness and death.”