Michael Fabricant says: “I know that some constituents are concerned that free Lateral Flow Tests won’t be available after 1 April, except for the over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems. And free PCR tests won’t be available to people with Covid symptoms from April either, except for a small number of at-risk groups, with details to be announced.
“The reason for this is three-fold: the success of the vaccine programme in the UK, the lack of potency of the latest Omicron BA2 Covid variant which is now dominant in the UK, and the availability of new anti-viral and other drugs to treat Covid. Influenza and pneumonia are now considered far more serious respiratory diseases.
“To put this in perspective, in Staffordshire over the last few months, there have been substantially fewer deaths than normal – as measured by the five-year average in the County leading up to the start of the pandemic.
“Before Covid, around 220 people died naturally each week in Staffordshire depending on the season. The rate is currently around 150 which is far lower than normal despite the rising number of Covid infections.
“Of course, if a more potent variant of Covid were to emerge in the future, free testing and other measures will be re-introduced.
“While it will be of no comfort to those who have lost loved ones, the first worldwide analysis of excess deaths during the pandemic shows that the death rate in Britain is about the same as that in France and lower than Germany, eastern Europe, and most European countries bordering the Mediterranean.
“In the meantime, I advise everyone to maintain hygiene standards by regular hand washing and to ensure that you are vaccinated against Covid and flu when you become eligible.