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Superdrug undercuts Boots and pledges to sell Covid tests for just £2 in the coming days


A high street pricing war over lateral flow tests broke out today as Superdrug revealed it will undercut rival chain Boots by offering Covid swabs for just £1.99 each. 

Superdrug pledged to sell individual tests for 51p less than Boots, which yesterday became the first pharmacy to unveil its pricing strategy ahead of No10’s move to ditch free swabbing in April.

People who are not vulnerable to the virus and wish to continue testing will have to purchase the rapid kits from supermarkets, high street pharmacies and potentially even petrol stations on the first day of that month.

Superdrug said it would offer the individual swabs at a lower price than its competitor and will also sell multiple tests at a discounted price, with packs of five costing £9.79. It means the tests will be 18 per cent cheaper than Boots, which will eventually charge £12 for a pack of five or £2.50 per individual swab.

And Superdrug confirmed it would start offering swabs at its price in the coming days, significantly earlier than Boots, which started selling them online £6 each today. 

Waitrose and other major retailers have started talks with the Government over supplying paid-for tests once the rule changes come into play.

But politicians, health experts and patients’ rights groups have all raised concerns the private sector could start cashing in on swabbing, arguing for a price cap to be put in place. There are already cost limits in Spain, France and Portugal, with the Spanish Government setting a ceiling of just £2.45 per test. In France, people can pick up tests for as little as £1.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran told MailOnline that leaving Covid testing in the hands of private firms could see them ‘fleece the public’. And Professor Christina Pagel, a member of Independent Sage, said she would ‘definitely’ support a price cap on the tests, which can cost £1 to manufacture domestically and pennies abroad.

Families have already started going from pharmacy to pharmacy demanding multiple packs of free lateral flows in order to stock up on the kits before they start charging from April 1. Some Brits have been shamelessly stockpiling Covid test kits and even showing off their ‘towers’ on social media. 

Superdrug pledged to offer individual lateral flow tests for 51p less than Boots just hours after the rival pharmacy chain announced its pricing changes ahead of No10's move to ditch free swabbing in April

Boots has announced it will charge up to £6 for a single lateral flow test from today — despite the swabs costing just £1 to manufacture domestically and pennies abroad

Superdrug pledged to offer individual lateral flow tests for 51p less than Boots just hours after the rival pharmacy chain announced its pricing changes ahead of No10’s move to ditch free swabbing in April

Superdrug (right) revealed it will undercut rival chain Boots (left) by offering Covid swabs for just £1.99 each. Boots will sell its tests for £2.50 each from next month

Superdrug (right) revealed it will undercut rival chain Boots (left) by offering Covid swabs for just £1.99 each. Boots will sell its tests for £2.50 each from next month

People who are not vulnerable to the virus and wish to continue testing will have to purchase the rapid kits from supermarkets, high street pharmacies and potentially even petrol stations on April 1

People who are not vulnerable to the virus and wish to continue testing will have to purchase the rapid kits from supermarkets, high street pharmacies and potentially even petrol stations on April 1

The END of masks on Tubes, trains and buses 

Masks will no longer be compulsory on Tubes and buses in London from tomorrow, but Londoners are still being ‘strongly recommended’ to continue covering up out of respect for fellow passengers.

Transport for London said it will no longer be a ‘condition of carriage’ to wear masks on its services, as Boris Johnson this week announced a bonfire of the last remaining Covid curbs in England.

But customers and staff will be ‘strongly recommended’ to wear face coverings regardless, in line with advice to passengers using national rail services.

TfL is also urging the use of face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles by both drivers and passengers.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has told people to keep wearing masks out of ‘consideration’, calling face coverings a ‘simple, effective measure that give Londoners confidence to travel’.

Mask advocates claim that people ‘feel safer using public transport if passengers are wearing a face covering’.

There are no details about which manufacturer Boots or Superdrug have purchased the rapid tests from, or exactly how many either pharmacy giant has bought.

But it suggests both retailers may be paying much less than the Government.

The Scottish Government revealed last July in response to an FOI request that Whitehall was paying £4 per test, excluding VAT.

However, there are suggestions that certain kits were being sold to ministers for even cheaper. Last winter it was revealed that No10 had paid around £800million in return for roughly 380million swabs from a California-based firm, suggesting the Government was paying in the region of £2.10 per test.

Superdrug is currently still offering free lateral flow tests for domestic use from the Government, while it charges £20.99 for day two rapid swabs for travel. It will stop selling free lateral flows when the price changes come into effect.

Boots yesterday announced it will charge up to £6 for a single test from its website today. The price includes delivery fees. Prices will be slashed at some point in March, when the kits are available in store.

LloydsPharmacy said it would continue to sell its non-travel lateral flow tests for £20 for a pack of five, working out at £4 per test online and in store. 

The retailer told MailOnline it is not currently in talks with the Government regarding paid testing.

And Pharmacy2U told MailOnline it has no plans to start offering lateral flow tests when the rule changes come in.

It is thought that Lidl could be one of the retailers to offer the tests privately in England after April after supplying people in Ireland and Germany with the tests for as little as £1.80 for months. 

The discount supermarket told MailOnline it does not currently have any plans to stock tests but this may change. 

Aldi has also been offering private lateral flow swabs at stores across Europe.

There has been a rush for free swabs in England on the back of Monday’s announcement that they will be phased out in six weeks, with shameless stockpilers sharing pictures of their lateral flow ‘towers’ on social media. 

Due to the scramble for LFTs, the Government has now urged people not to hoard them in advance as they ran out online and via the NHS’ 119 phone line.

Some Britons have been shamelessly stockpiling Covid test kits and even showing off their ‘towers’ on social media as the UK faced having to pay for them in six weeks time – saving the taxpayer £2billion a month.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline that there is a growing trend of hoarding — and fears members will be ‘abused’ if they have run out like in the run up to Christmas.  

Stockpilers shared pictures of their towers of free NHS lateral flow tests that cost £2billion a month and are being phased out from April 1

Stockpilers shared pictures of their towers of free NHS lateral flow tests that cost £2billion a month and are being phased out from April 1

Stockpilers shared pictures of their towers of free NHS lateral flow tests that cost £2billion a month and are being phased out from April 1

In France, people can pick up tests at a third of the UK price (around £3), for as little as £1, while in Germany they can cost just £1.80 and Spain's Government has capped them at roughly £2.45. However, the tests - which experts say can cost just pennies to make - are not as cheap everywhere, with Americans paying $10 (£7.35)

In France, people can pick up tests at a third of the UK price (around £3), for as little as £1, while in Germany they can cost just £1.80 and Spain’s Government has capped them at roughly £2.45. However, the tests – which experts say can cost just pennies to make – are not as cheap everywhere, with Americans paying $10 (£7.35)

Now stockpilers descend on pharmacies 

Families are going from pharmacy to pharmacy demanding multiple packs of free lateral flow tests as Boots cashed in on the shortages and began selling swabs for £5.99 each online today.

Due to the scramble for LFTs, the Government has now urged people not to hoard them in advance as they ran out online and via the NHS’ 119 phone line.

Some Britons have been shamelessly stockpiling Covid test kits and even showing off their ‘towers’ on social media as the UK faced having to pay for them in six weeks time – saving the taxpayer £2billion a month.

The announcement that rapid lateral flow tests will no longer be free for the public from April 1 has seen many rush to grab tests which can currently be ordered online or collected from high street pharmacies.

Boots will start charging customers £5.99 for lateral flow tests today amid a scramble for free tests. This is despite the swabs costing just £1 to manufacture domestically – and pennies if made in China – leading to calls for ministers to put a price cap on lateral flow tests.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline that there is a growing trend of hoarding – and fears members will be ‘abused’ if they have run out like in the run up to Christmas.

She said: ‘People want to get these tests free of charge before they have to pay. Some come as a family and the husband wants some, and then the wife wants some — a whole family trying to get these tests, keeping it for when they need it. This is stockpiling’.

She added: ‘We raised concerns around Christmas time about supply not meeting the demand following change in government guidelines. Once again pharmacies find themselves in a situation where we are not communicated with prior to an announcement and need to deal with the increased demand’.

She said: ‘People want to get these tests free of charge before they have to pay. 

‘Some come as a family and the husband wants some, and then the wife wants some — a whole family trying to get these tests, keeping it for when they need it. This is stockpiling.

‘We raised concerns around Christmas time about supply not meeting the demand following change in government guidelines.

‘Once again pharmacies find themselves in a situation where we are not communicated with prior to an announcement and need to deal with the increased demand.’

The Government already started secretly rationing, limiting orders to one pack in 72 hours rather than every 24 hours.

And extraordinary pictures show the lengths that some Britons have gone to stockpile packs, proudly sharing pictures of mounds of tests that are costing the taxpayer £2billion per month.  

One person, who has stockpiled more than 25 packs, tweeted: ‘When the Government wants to start charging for lateral flow tests. I’ve come fully prepared so I don’t run out of covid tests’.  

Some have even suggested they could choose to sell them online from April – while people in Wales and Scotland, where tests are expected to remain free, are offering to stockpile them there and post them to friends in England.  

One person tweeted: ‘If people order a load of free lateral flow tests now, then once it’s April 1st they can sell them cheaper than the government, at least the money won’t be going to them’. 

Another wrote: ‘Gonna start stocking up on lateral flow tests to take back to my family asap. very glad testing and isolation rules are staying the same in Wales at the moment’.

Experts and MPs yesterday called for a price cap on tests when the rule changes come in to prevent poorer people being hit hardest and low amounts of overall testing.

Ms Moran told MailOnline: ‘If the government insists on doing so, they must introduce a price cap as other European nations already have.’ 

And Dr Pagel told MailOnline: ‘I am very concerned about the affordability of tests for those on low incomes, particularly the timing given the coming steep rise in the cost of living in April. 

‘It will make much harder for those in less well off communities to exercise the personal responsibility the government is asking for.’

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