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People could still be taking rapid tests for Covid in five years time, a senior government scientist has said.
Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, Lucy Chappell, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care, said the government was committed to testing between now and January.
“In the short term I think we should be continuing with testing, particularly symptomatic individuals,” she told the Commons science and technology committee.
“I know that other groups are evaluating at what point we reconsider testing asymptomatic individuals beyond January, beyond Spring.”
Chappell added: “I would like to think in five years time we won’t all be lateral flow testing. There is a stretchable point between now and five years clearly.”
Asked if the government was currently looking at when to “turn off” testing of asymptomatic people, she added: “That is being considered, yes.”
It came as Downing Street defended its Plan B contingency for controlling Covid over the winter.
Documents leaked to Politico suggested enacting the measures for five months could cost the economy up to £18 billion.
The Plan B includes re-introducing working-from-home guidance and the mandatory use of face masks.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said the suggestion of five months of tighter rules was not “government policy and is not something we’re planning to”.
They said Plan B would only be bought in when “pressure on the NHS is unsustainable”, which he said “is not the case currently””.
“If it were to become the case, the Plan B measures would allow venues to remain open and remain trading,” he added.
“We are confident the Plan B measures taken as a package will help curb Covid cases while also striking that important balance of allowing parts of the economy to remain open that will otherwise face severe restrictions or even closure.”
There have also been reports the government is working on a Plan C if Plan B does not work.
In evidence to the science and technology committee, Chappell said “at the moment the focus is on Plan B”.
Thomas Waite, deputy chief medical officer at DHSC, also told MPs: “I haven’t been consulted on anything about a Plan C.”