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UK Government should not ‘force our hand’ by ending free Covid tests – Yousaf

Humza Yousaf said he has been asking the UK Government not to “force the hand” of devolved administrations by ending free coronavirus testing across the UK at the end of February.

Scotland’s Health Secretary said the UK Government has the right to make decisions on testing in England but funding for the tests elsewhere should be maintained if devolved administrations want to continue.

It comes after Boris Johnson told MPs he is looking to end the requirement to self-isolate after a positive test by the end of February, a month earlier than scheduled.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf said the UK’s four chief medical officers have been working together to discuss the removal of restrictions.

He said he is concerned that he has not seen the public health advice around the Prime Minister’s announcement.

The Health Secretary said: “This is the central argument we’ve been trying to make with the UK Government since the announcement on Wednesday – which is, you have every right to make decisions for people in England, but what they can’t do and shouldn’t do is then force our hand when it comes to our response.”

He continued: “I don’t know the detail of what the UK Government’s going to announce, but if they are going to, for example, withdraw the universal offer for testing – which I don’t think they should do at the end of February – if they do that, then of course tests, as you know, are procured on a four-nations basis.

“And that could effectively force our hand to respond in a way we don’t want to do at this immediate time.”

Under this scenario, he said the Scottish Government would have to set up its own procurement for tests and potentially find the money from elsewhere.

Mr Yousaf was also asked about waiting times in the Scottish NHS and when they will start to come down.

His counterpart in the UK Government, Sajid Javid, has admitted that the number of people waiting will continue to rise for another two years.

He said: “I commend Sajid Javid for his honesty, because that’s absolutely right.

“It isn’t going to be a case that I can promise you waiting less for be abolished or finished and we’ll work our way through them completely within a few months or even a year.”

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