ONE of the biggest changes in the UK pandemic, set to happen next week, is the scrapping of free Covid testing.
From next Friday, Britons in England will have to pay to check if they have the virus unless they belong to certain groups.
The rest of the UK is due to follow at a later date, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continuing with some free trials longer.
People can no longer get a free PCR test from the NHS unless they are considered high risk.
And lateral flow testing, which was the staple of home testing, is no longer free unless you’re in a certain at-risk group.
Instead, Brits have to go to high street shops, which sell a swab for around £1.99.
This is part of Boris Johnson’s plan to ‘live with Covid’ and move the nation forward without self-isolation and restrictions.
The government website states: “The Test & Trace scheme cost £15.7billion in 2021/22.
“With Omicron now the dominant and less severe variant, high levels of immunity across the country and a range of strategies including vaccines, the value for taxpayers’ money is now less clear.
“Free testing should rightly focus on at-risk groups.”
Who can still try for free after April 1st?
The government’s lateral flow testing portal now says people still need Covid testing if they work in the NHS, are at higher risk of Covid or visit high-risk people.
It directs people to a “higher risk” list on the NHS website.
This includes people with conditions such as:
- long-term lung diseases (such as severe asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis)
- Long-term conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels (such as congenital heart disease, heart failure, and peripheral arterial disease)
- long-term kidney disease
- long-term liver disease (such as cirrhosis and hepatitis)
- Disorders affecting the brain or nerves (eg, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or stroke)
- severe or multiple learning disabilities
- Down syndrom
- Problems with the spleen or the spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
- severe obesity (a BMI of 40 or greater)
- severe mental illness (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
- a condition or treatment that increases the risk of infections
- a condition your doctor recommends puts you at high risk
People with compromised immune systems include those who have had or have:
- a blood cancer (such as leukemia or lymphoma)
- a weakened immune system due to treatment (eg, steroid medicine, biological therapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy)
- an organ or bone marrow transplant
- a condition that means you are at very high risk of infection
- A medical condition or treatment recommended by your specialist makes you eligible for a 3rd dose
Some children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 are considered to be at high risk if either:
- you live with someone who has a weakened immune system (eg, someone who has HIV, has had a transplant, or is taking certain treatments for cancer, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis)
- They have a condition that means they are at high risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19
Conditions that mean they may be at high risk include:
- a serious problem with the brain or nerves, such as cerebral palsy
- Down syndrom
- severe or multiple learning disabilities (or registered on the Learning Disabilities Register)
- a condition that means they are more likely to get infections (such as some genetic disorders or cancers)
It comes after the Health Secretary urged Brits who contract the virus to act like they have the flu.
And he said people who have tested positive should continue to self-isolate for at least four or five more days before returning to work.
He said ministers were not worried about rising cases, which “would always be the case” as the country has ended all restrictions.
But he said anyone with Covid symptoms should try to avoid others until they feel better and see if they can.
Mr Javid defended the government’s decision to phase out free lateral flow tests from the end of this month.
He said the move is part of plans to live with the virus and that Brits can be trusted to show “common sense” when feeling sick.
The health department said: “We will focus our testing on those who are most vulnerable or are in vulnerable settings and that is the right way forward.
“If people have Covid symptoms after April 1st they should just behave sensibly, as you would expect someone who has flu symptoms to behave.
“That means socializing a little less, staying indoors and waiting until you’re better.”
He added: “If I tested positive, I wouldn’t go to work. We rely much more on people’s personal responsibility, their own common sense.
“As we learn to live with Covid as we have learned to live with other viruses such as the flu, people should use common sense.
“If you don’t feel good about having the symptoms of Covid, then it’s not a good idea to mix with other people.
“The right idea is to spend some time staying away from others.”
When will Covid testing end in the rest of the UK?
As of March 28, free PCR tests will end availability to the public and be replaced by lateral flow tests, which will be available through June.
People without symptoms are still advised to test twice a week, while close contacts of a positive case should be tested daily for seven days and those with symptoms should receive a PCR test.
But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said most testing will end at the end of April. The population is encouraged to stay at home if they are unwell.
But those who are eligible for antiviral treatments will still have access to testing – in the community and in hospital settings.
Northern Ireland has not yet presented any plans.
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https://www.thesun.ie/health/8558167/major-covid-testing-rule-change/ Everything you need to know about Covid testing ahead of next week’s big rule change