Boris Johnson announced on Monday 21st February 2022 that the Covid-19 restrictions for England have been fully lifted. Even though this made many people happy and excited to be back to a more familiar daily life, he also announced that all Covid-19 tests that had previously been free, will from April 1st have a price.
Why is this happening?
Boris Johnson has said that the UK spent £2 billion on Covid-19 tests in January alone. This large sum of money is what urged Boris Johnson to make the changes and stop free tests in England.
Business minister Paul Scully told Sky News, “If you think, what that £2 billion might go towards, there’s a lot of other backlogs in the NHS, other illnesses in the NHS, that that money could go for.”
This could be extremely important and improve a lot in the social care, care home and home care sectors, but we will have to wait and see what the Government decides to do with the money.
How much will these tests cost?
The government has said that from 1 April, anyone who would like or need to confirm their symptoms to be Covid-19 will have to pay between £2 and £5 per individual Lateral Flow Test or around £20 for a pack of seven .
Boris Johnson said the Government is working closely with retailers to roll out this new plan and to make the tests available to purchase as many places as possible.
However, the day after the announcement, Boots UK became the first retailer to confirm its tests prices and as these start at a price of £5.99 for a single Lateral Flow Test, these are over the price range the Government has claimed.
How will this affect care home visits?
Over the past year, we in the UK have made huge improvements to care home visits compared to the previous year. This had a lot to do with the vaccinations being in motion and of course, the free tests played a huge part in this as well.
Giving care workers and residents in the care homes the comfort of knowing that everyone coming in to visit the care home would have had a negative Covid-19 test and knowing everyone could easily get their hands on the tests without having to worry about costs, will now change.
Showing a negative lateral flow test before entering a care home is still a must, however this change in cost could potentially put families in difficult situations and for people who cannot afford these tests, it will mean that they can no longer visit their loved ones at the care homes.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: “Over the last year or so many older people have felt safe enough to see loved ones only because everyone has taken a lateral flow test beforehand, to provide reassurance. There’s now definitely a risk that some older people and their families will feel much less certain about meeting face to face if they are unable to access these tests or feel they can’t afford them.”
It is still important to mention that some limited groups will remain eligible for free testing. These are expected to include people over 80 or with compromised immune systems, as well as NHS and care staff who show Covid symptoms.