Humza Yusuf calls for more funding for Scotland as Boris Johnson announces lifting of restrictions in England

The prime minister confirmed on Monday that free universal testing will end as of April 1, when he unveiled his “life with Covid” plan.

His statement to MPs drew a furious response from the Scottish government, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling the decision “catastrophic” even before it was announced.

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Ms Sturgeon said in a statement posted on Twitter: “To allow a significant dismantling of the testing infrastructure built up over the past two years would be unforgivable negligence given the ongoing risks.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefs House of Commons members on Covid-19 life plan. Photo date: Monday, February 21, 2022

Speaking after Mr Johnson’s statement, Scottish Health Minister Humza Yousaf called for more money and more details as Ms Sturgeon prepares to lay out her government’s approach to fighting Covid on Tuesday afternoon.

He said: “Free tests and the need to isolate if tested positive are effective tools to help suppress Covid-19 infection rates and should remain for as long as public health expert advice recommends. The public health advice we have received does not recommend canceling these important interventions at this time.

“I would like to pay tribute to the commitment and dedication of our testing staff who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe during this pandemic. The UK Government has an obligation to treat this workforce with the respect they deserve and to ensure that our testing capacity can be expanded when needed.

“We are clear that the UK Government must continue to provide adequate funding to support the current response to Covid-19 and ensure that all parts of the UK are empowered to make the decisions they deem necessary to protect public health and address future challenges. options that may arise.

“We await further details from the UK Government on the implications of the Prime Minister’s statement for devolved administrations.”

When rumors of the plans resurfaced earlier in the day, Ms Sturgeon said they posed an unnecessary risk.

She said: “If this is the case, then this is a disaster for the UK’s ability to provide adequate Covid surveillance, outbreak management, etc. going forward.”

The answer came when the Prime Minister also announced the lifting of the need for self-isolation in England in case of infection from February 24, as he stated that “it’s time to take back our confidence.”

The decision also put Mr Johnson on a collision course with the Scottish government, which has already announced its intention to extend the seven-day self-isolation beyond the end of this month.

Speaking to MPs, Mr Johnson also said vaccinated contacts would no longer need to be tested for seven days, ending conventional contact tracing and confirming the end of free testing.

The announcement came after the prime minister confirmed that the UK’s free testing program was worth £2bn in January alone.

Mr Johnson said: “Those who wait for a complete cessation of this war before lifting the remaining rules will restrict the freedoms of the British people for a long time to come.

“This government doesn’t think it’s right or necessary.

“Restrictions are taking a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and our children’s life chances. And we don’t have to pay that cost anymore.

“We have antiviral drugs, treatments and scientific understanding of this virus, and we have the ability to quickly respond to any resurgence or new variant.

“We don’t need laws to force people to be considerate of others.

“We can rely on this sense of responsibility towards each other, giving practical advice, knowing that people will follow it so as not to infect loved ones and others.

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“It is unacceptable if funding for Scotland due to Covid is limited by the decisions of England”…

“So let’s learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms.”

Mr Johnson unveiled his plans to lift restrictions in a statement in which he also acknowledged that the new options posed a threat.

He said: “SAGE advises that there is considerable uncertainty about the future path of the pandemic and there may be significant re-outbreaks.

“They are confident that there will be new options, and it is possible that they will be worse than Omicron.”

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer criticized the end of free tests and called the statement “a half-baked statement from a government paralyzed by chaos and incompetence”.

He said: “Free tests can’t go on forever, but if you’re down 2-1 with ten minutes left, you’re not replacing one of your best defenders.

“All we have today is more chaos and confusion, which is not enough to prepare us for the new options that may yet come. An approach that seems to think that living with Covid means simply ignoring it.

“This morning he couldn’t even convince his health minister [Sajid Javid] agree on a plan. So what confidence does the public have that this is the right approach?

“Our plan assumes that we learn the lessons of the last two years and prepare for new options. His approach will make us vulnerable.”

Ian Blackford criticized the UK government’s lack of communication with the Scottish government.

SNP leader Westminster said: “This announcement was a moment of pride for the Prime Minister, but it is clear that this morning was a moment of panic for this government.

“The controversy in Whitehall and the absence of any major engagement with decentralized countries shows that these decisions are devoid of science or advice.”

Mr Johnson dismissed Mr Blackford’s comments and insisted that “the cooperation between the UK Government and the Scottish authorities has been outstanding and will continue to be outstanding”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called the need to pay for sidestream tests a “care tax”.

He said: “In our country, millions of family caregivers undergo regular sidestream testing to ensure they are not transmitting Covid to their vulnerable loved ones.

“Is the Prime Minister really telling people that they have to choose between money for a weekly store or a test so that they don’t accidentally introduce this contagious virus into the homes of their loved ones?”

The announcement came after a cabinet meeting on plans was postponed due to alleged disagreements between Mr Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

It is believed that Mr. Javid wanted to continue free testing, but the chancellor repeatedly denied funding.

Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Wes Streeting said the cabinet’s delay was a sign of “chaos and incompetence”.

He said: “The government is paralyzed by its own chaos and incompetence and the British public is paying the price. This mess can’t go on.

“How confident can the public be that the Conservatives are acting in the national interest if they cannot agree on a Covid plan?

“It is clear that the Prime Minister tried to declare victory before the end of the war, just to divert attention from the police knocking on the door of number 10.

“Labour published our plan for living well with Covid in January. It would prepare us for new options and secure our lives, livelihoods and freedoms. If the Conservatives are too incompetent to agree on their own plan, they can use ours.”

Representative No. 10 insisted: “The Cabinet unanimously supported life with the Covid strategy.”

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