September 18, 2020
Fears that the government may force people to pay for a Covid-19 test are mounting, HuffPost UK understands. 
Covid Testing Chaos Sparks Fears People Could Be Forced To Pay
It comes after the government’s test and trace service was plunged into fresh chaos this week, with demand far outstripping supply. 
Health secretary Matt Hancock, who introduced new lockdown measures in the north-east on Thursday, has faced criticism for suggesting people without symptoms are putting pressure on the service. 
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme on Friday, he said: “I shouldn’t be surprised, as a Conservative and a trained economist, if you make something free and easily accessible then demand often exceeds supply.”
He has also hinted in the Commons that “when you have a free service it’s inevitable that demand rises”, sparking concern that new charges could be introduced. 
Shadow health minister Justin Madders told HuffPost UK he feared people may be forced to pay for a test privately. 
He said: “We wouldn’t want to see worried people desperate for a test pushed into paying vast sums for costly tests from those profiteering in the private sector.
“The testing system is in meltdown. And when testing breaks down, tracing breaks down and infections rise. It is now more urgent than ever that ministers fix testing now.” A new rationing system has been introduced, which sees health workers, the clinically vulnerable and care home residents put at the front of the queue for tests. 
But, when pressed about the pressure on NHS Test and Trace, Hancock told MPs on Wednesday: “I don’t deny that it is an enormous challenge and when you have a free service it’s inevitable that demand rises.
“The challenge is to make sure that we prioritise the tests we have as a nation to those who most need it.”
On Friday, he refused to rule out a time-limited second national lockdown after the R rate jumped above 1.0 last week and the daily case count hitting almost 4,000 on Wednesday. 
Pictures emerged of large queues at testing sites on Thursday and there has been a flurry of reports that the government website is regularly running out of tests. 
Dido Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, was told at a Commons committee hearing on Thursday that she had failed to prepare for the rush, despite ministers frequently warning a second wave was always a possibility. 
Harding claimed no-one foresaw a peak in demand, but admitted: “Plainly we don’t have enough testing capacity.”
When asked whether the government had plans to introduce charging for tests, Downing Street sidestepped the question on Thursday. 
A spokesperson said: “I’m not aware of any plans to introduce charging.”Related... Are Ministers Spreading The Covid Blame Again, This Time To The Public? No Staff To Swab Dozens Who Turned Up At North East Coronavirus Test Site Revealed: Here's Who Is Actually Running NHS Test And Trace
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