A CAMPAIGNING politician has urged the Scottish Government to reintroduce free lateral flow testing for all amid fears some people can't afford to check if they have Covid-19.

Labour MSP Katy Clark issued the plea at a time when infections reached their highest level since last July.

She insists efforts to control the spread of Covid “must not be dependent on individuals’ ability to pay” and has said bringing back free testing for all could save lives.

The Scottish Government scrapped universal free testing in April last year, although people who are susceptible to the virus or work in the health and care sector are among those who remain eligible.

Others have to pay for tests, with a packet of five typically costing around £9 at leading pharmacies.

Ms Clark, who represents East Renfrewshire as part of her West Scotland remit, said not having universal provision during a cost-of-living crisis is “a fundamental mistake.”

“This pandemic has not gone away," she added. "Infections are again surging at a time when the NHS is under immense strain.

“No-one expected restrictions to last forever but living with Covid should mean access to testing whenever needed. Removing that access in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis will have been fatal for many.

“Ensuring free testing at the point of use for all is one of the very principles of our NHS.

“Richer people pay whilst many of the poorest in society do not know if they even have Covid. That’s what removing free testing for asymptomatic people has meant in practice.

“The Scottish Government must reverse its decision and bring back free testing. It could save lives.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said it is keeping the situation under regular clinical review.

“High levels of flu and Covid are all compounding the usual pressure on healthcare services at this time of year, making this one of the toughest winters in the history of the NHS," added the spokesperson.

“If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. If you do need to leave home, we strongly recommend wearing a well-fitting face covering.

"All those eligible for free flu and Covid vaccinations are urged to take up the offer if they haven’t already.

“Our published Test & Protect Transition Plan sets out how we have moved to a more targeted approach to protect those in the highest risk settings.

"Testing remains in place for admissions into care homes and to support appropriate clinical diagnosis and treatment for hospital patients and care home residents.”