GREEDY profiteers are flogging free NHS rapid Covid tests for up to £100 as the nation scrambles to get swabbed before going back to school and work tomorrow.
Ministers announced this morning that every pupil will be tested in classrooms before starting term.
But thousands of working Brits are struggling to get their hands on the DIY lateral flow kits, which have sold out in pharmacies and are regularly unavailable online.
Soaring cases of the Omicron variant have sparked a shortage across Britain, where another 137,583 Covid cases were recorded yesterday along with 73 deaths.
However The Sun discovered tests — free from the government website — being snapped up online for up to £100 at independent auction houses, Facebook and eBay.
Such shameless profiteering sparked outrage from MPs, with Tory Nigel Mills fuming: “It is a disgrace that some people would try to exploit a national shortage of tests as a way to make money. The online websites and any auction houses should refuse to list the tests for sale.”
Boxes of Covid test kits were listed for sale last week by auctioneers W&H Peacocks in Bedford. They were also available to buy from Simon Charles Auctioneers & Valuers in Manchester.
Neither responded to request to comment, while eBay said testing sales were banned with any listings quickly removed. Health minister Edward Argar insisted there was no shortage of free kits and people should stay patient with supplies being ramped up.
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He said: “Tests are available. We advise people to keep going on the website to refresh it and they will find that every hour more slots are available for booking one for delivery or for collecting from pharmacies.
“We’ve ramped up supply to reflect that and you’ll continue to see that supply increasing in the coming weeks.”
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It emerged yesterday that British manufacturers of rapid tests are still awaiting approval – with the majority coming from China. Meanwhile, education officials are scrambling to ensure every school has enough tests to swab every pupil before the start of term this week.
All secondary schools have been ordered to set up testing centres with teachers expected to observe every pupil getting checked.
It comes just days after a mask mandate was ordered in all secondaries at all times.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Being in face-to face learning is undoubtedly the very best place for children and young people’s education and wellbeing, and my priority remains on keeping early years settings, schools, colleges and universities open so that face-to-face education can continue.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted regular testing of pupils was vital to keep them in school.
He said: “We are doing all we can to minimise disruption this virus causes to everyday life, including keeping children in school, and regular testing is a key way to support schools.”
One of Britain’s largest school academies said they have plenty of Covid tests for their children ahead of the new term.
Rev Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Community Learning, said: “For schools, the DfE have done a great job and we have all the testing kits that we need.
“So from Tuesday our year groups will begin going back but we want to be able to spread that out through the week and then, of course, we have to test children twice a week from there on in. But in terms of the number of testing kits we’re OK, as is every school in the country.”
Ministers believe there is no need to add any more Covid restrictions to fight the Omicron wave. No10 is set to review current arrangements this week but are not expected to make changes.
Mr Argar said hospitalisations are not crippling the NHS – although he expects them to rise — and revealed that only 789 people are on ventilators.
He said: “I’m seeing nothing in the data right in front of me in the immediate situation that suggests a need for further restrictions.”
He added: “We need cool, calm heads. We need to look at the data and we need to do everything possible to avoid any restrictions. Restrictions or curbs must be the absolute last resort.”
Current restrictions mean businesses and schools are all being crippled by staff absences – with new data showing one in ten off sick in the NHS. However the minister ruled out any moves to cut isolation from seven to five days for asymptomatic sufferers, like in the US and Greece.
Mr Argar said: “The clinical advice or scientific advice we have is around moving it from 10, as we have done, to seven days.
“We haven't received scientific advice that it should go lower than that.”
Self-isolate ‘with sniffle’
PEOPLE should isolate even if they have a common cold, a leading medical adviser has urged.
Welsh Chief Medical Officer Sir Frank Atherton said we would be “safer as a society” if everyone spent a few days at home if they had the sniffles.
He is behind tough Covid measures in Wales — where nightclubs are closed and the rule of six is enforced in pubs.
He told Times Radio: “We need to move to a position where anybody who has a viral infection of that nature self-isolates for a few days.”
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