Covid cases in the UK have risen by almost 15% in a week with infections rising over 40,000 over the last 24 hours.
Monday’s figures show a total of 40,224 cases and 28 deaths – which is up to 35,077 cases last Monday, even though there were 33 deaths last week.
That follows 38 deaths recorded yesterday and 34,574 more cases.
It comes as fears of a winter rise could see free Covid test scrapped and limited to high-risk settings such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools due to high costs to taxpayers, it is reported.
It is said that the government is considering downsizing the current arrangements where everyone has free access to lateral flow tests and some people can get hold of PCR tests.
This move was outlined in the government’s winter plan last month.
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The report does not specify exactly when the free access to lateral flow tests will end, but says that changes will begin at some point in the future.
A Whitehall source told the Telegraph: “There is agreement that universal access is not sustainable or necessary given the high levels of vaccination.
“We now have to decide what parameters need to be that reasonably qualify access to free testing.”
Ahead of the budget later this month, the Treasury is believed to be convinced that the universal free test will soon be scaled down, following similar moves from Germany and France this month.
But other parts of the government are hesitant to end the scheme at a time when Covid cases could rise in the fall and winter.
It is understood that the Treasury and the Cabinet support the completion of free mass testing, with an insider quoted to say that the cost equals 1p on income tax and that taxes may increase if the scheme continues.
Number 10 and the Department of Health and Social Care are believed to be more cautious as discussions take place between DHSC and the Treasury on announcements of all future departmental expenditures in the budget on 27 October.
Downing Street is believed to reduce the chances of mass-free testing ending over the winter, and the PM is expected to have the ultimate word on whether the scheme should change.