Boris Johnson’s latest attempt to rehabilitate himself with sceptical Tory MPs is to scrap the need to self isolate if you have Covid in England. So you are now free to spread it far and wide. You would think that you would have to monitor the impact really carefully. That is way too sensible for this Government who also reportedly plan to scrap free lateral flow tests. So we will have no idea how many cases we have until hospitals start filling up.
The BBC asked this week if this move was brave or stupid. NHS chiefs said it was an unnecessary risk and the Guardian reports that SAGE said that it would be harder for people to take precautionary measures and cause anxiety amongst vulnerable groups.
But following the science comes second to following the whims of Conservative MPs, it seems.
Ed Davey and the Lib Dems have done some research into the cost of lateral flow tests for those who need them to keep loved ones safe.
The latest figures show that every week nearly four million people take regular Covid tests, taking two tests a week on average. This includes people who take tests to protect their elderly relatives and friends, or vulnerable workers who work in people-facing industries such as hospitality and are concerned about their health.
Those people now face an average hit of £534 a year, assuming lateral flow tests cost around £5.80 each. This is based on the average costs of a lateral flow test in similar Western countries including Belgium, France, Spain and the US.
Ed said that this would lead to a lockdown by stealth for vulnerable people:
Charging people for the tests they need to safely see vulnerable loved ones is a tax on caring, that risks leaving millions of people in lockdown by stealth.
It means vulnerable people will see fewer loved ones and will be able to enjoy less of their lives. It is unfair and unjust.
Ministers need to scrap these plans to stop a cost of living with Covid crisis.
Throughout the pandemic, people have been trying hard to do the right thing and keep others safe. The Government should not be making that harder.
Internal polling by the party reveals that only one in five people support the scrapping of free Covid lateral flow tests, instead of being charged £5 per test. Opposition to the ending of free tests is shared by Conservative voters, with over half (52%) saying they should never be scrapped and another 23% saying they don’t support ending them now but would in the long term.
Our editor pointed out on Twitter the effect that this could have on her family meeting up for Sunday lunch:
My family has several people who are immune-compromised and therefore more vulnerable to Covid. If you are talking £5 a test, between us all it would cost £60 for the close family to meet up for Sunday lunch. https://t.co/Z1hZzPKpVm
— Caron Lindsay (@caronmlindsay) February 20, 2022
Access to free testing is vital for all and gives the double benefit of getting back to as normal a life as possible while protecting vulnerable people and helping them manage their own risk.