In April of this year, the UK Public Health Ministry announced that every individual in England would be given two free rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs) a week, under an extended government testing scheme. This was enacted approximately three months before Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted the hard-hitting lockdown, and outlined plans for workplace testing programmes and online home-ordering delivery services of LFTs. A month prior, local pharmacies already had enough stock for each UK resident to collect two packs of tests at a time.
One pack contains seven tests.
With the launch of the Cayman Islands’ new strict testing policy, accessibility of LFTs should have been taken into account in the planning stages. As regulations currently stand, if a member of a person’s household tests positive, individuals in the household must take a daily lateral flow test, and provided they get a negative result, they are able to go about their daily activities as normal. However, the system only works if people have accessibility to testing. This should have meant the government securing routine shipments and back-up stock to account for shortages, and even funding the programme to ensure those who may not be able to afford tests can do so.
It’s financially and physically impossible to follow a procedure that ‘strongly encourages’ you to routinely use something that you just can’t access, or cannot afford. LFTs in the Cayman Islands can range anywhere from $6.99-$8.99 per test, if you’re lucky enough get your hands on one. Many on-Island are thus experiencing undue stress that could have been easily avoided. Local pharmacies have been plagued with requests for LFTs, with customers only to be told they are temporarily out of stock and unsure as to when they will have more.
With most pharmacies on-Island already pushing ‘pre-order only’ policies due to mass shortages, the vulnerable, auto-immune, small business owner, and traveller is being further inconvenienced by a piece of plastic that is universally low-budget, globally abundant, and manufactured at US$0.10-3.00 per unit.
The UK public were outraged further last month when they heard families may soon have to start paying an eye-watering £5 (CI$5.50) for seven tests. The Chief Executive of the group UK Hospitality protested soon after that the price of LFTs should not exceed £1 per test, arguing persons should not be disadvantaged further during a pandemic that has already caused them enough harm.
In an increasingly fragile socio-political landscape where preparation is vital, planning is necessary, and an evaluation of all possible scenarios integral to strategise growing solutions, it is essential that we get this problem fixed, and fixed quickly. With less than three weeks away from our borders’ reopening, it should not be an issue to access an LFT, nor should they be an expense for those who truly need them.