Lateral flows scrapped for EVERYONE in England except NHS, care homes

Lateral flow tests will be scrapped for EVERYONE in England except frontline health and care home staff from Friday — but vulnerable patients with Covid-like symptoms will be eligible

  • Ministers tonight laid out who will and won’t be eligible for free tests from April 1 
  • Asymptotic tests only free for frontline NHS, care home staff when cases high
  • Free tests for symptomatic to continue for very vulnerable, and ‘high risk’ jobs

Free lateral flow tests will be scrapped for everyone except NHS workers, care home staff and vulnerable patients from Friday in England, ministers announced tonight.

The general public will be told there is no need to take a test even if they are symptomatic, though they will be advised to isolate until they feel better.

Rapid Covid tests are being massively scaled back on April 1 as part of the final phase of the Government’s ‘living with Covid’ strategy.

Asymptotic tests will only be free for frontline NHS, social care and hospice staff during ‘periods of high prevalence’.

Lateral flows will also be funded for patients with Covid-like symptoms in hospital or who are eligible for antivirals because they have an underlying health conditions. 

People in ‘high risk settings’ will also be eligible for free tests if they are symptomatic, including prison officers or staff in homeless shelters. 

But routine tests for care home and hospice residents will no longer continue and will only be provided in the event of an outbreak or a resident being admitted.

And visitors to hospitals and social care settings will ‘no longer be required to take a test’ upon arrival.  

Free lateral flow tests for all Britons are set to be scrapped in England on Friday for the vast majority of people

Several scientists have expressed concern about the timing of the move, with cases quite high. But there are signs the latest surge may have already peaked

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus.

‘We have made enormous progress but will keep the ability to respond to future threats including potential variants.

‘Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.’

Free parking for NHS staff working in hospitals in England will end on Friday, the Health Secretary has said.

Parking fees were waived during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Sajid Javid said that the benefit would end on Friday.

In an update on Covid-19, Mr Javid wrote: ‘Free parking in hospital car parks for NHS staff introduced during the pandemic will also come to an end on 31 March.

‘However, over 93% of NHS trusts that charge for car parking have implemented free parking for those in greatest need, including NHS staff working overnight.’

He added: ‘On behalf of the Government, I would like to record my thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to keep people safe over the last two years and whose efforts have enabled us to move to the next stage of the Covid-19 response.’

Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB union, told the PA news agency: ‘Charging the NHS staff who’ve risked their lives during the pandemic to park at work is a sick joke.

‘After the years of Tory cuts NHS trusts are struggling, we know.

‘But scrabbling the money back off hard up workers is not the answer.

‘The Government must now legislate for free hospital staff parking once and for all.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the perk was ‘temporary’ and introduced in July 2020 ‘for the duration of the pandemic’.

It said that the scheme had cost around £130 million over the past two years.

 

More details about exactly who will be eligible for tests is to be set out this Friday, the Department of Health said.  

It stressed ministers have a stockpile of lateral flow tests that it can roll out en masse again if a new variant of concern emerges. 

For the rest of the public, the advice is to ‘try to’ stay home and avoid contact with others for five days if they have a high temperature or ‘feel unwell’.  

Those who are positive, or have symptoms, and need to leave home will be urged to wear masks, avoid crowded places and stay away from people with weakened immune systems.

The law to self-isolate after a positive test expired on February 24 in England.  

Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, warned the pandemic was not over.

She said: As we learn to live with Covid, we are focusing our testing provision on those at higher risk of serious outcomes from the virus, while encouraging people to keep following simple steps to help keep themselves and others safe.

‘The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain. 

‘Covid still poses a real risk to many of us, particularly with case rates and hospitalisations on the rise. 

‘That is why it is sensible to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, keep indoor spaces ventilated and stay away from others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including Covid.’

From 1 April, those working in adult social care services will also continue to receive free personal protective equipment (PPE).

The quarantine time of entire care homes after a Covid case is also being shortened from 14 to 10 days. 

Britain’s scramble for the last remaining free supplies of lateral flow tests has seen sales of the rapid devices soar five-fold in a week at High Street pharmacies.

LloydsPharmacy is already selling the Covid tests, despite free ones being available on the Government’s website until Friday.

But scores of Britons have complained about being unable to get hold of any kits through the official ordering channel over the past fortnight.

Struggles accessing the devices — which formed a major part of the UK’s Covid-fighting strategy — have allowed major retailers to cash in. 

LloydsPharmacy told MailOnline sales in the week ending March 28 were 400 per cent up on the previous seven-day spell. 

It also announced it was slashing the price of lateral flows, reducing the price of a pack of five rapid swabs by 20p to £9.29 — or £1.86 each — making it the cheapest on the market.

A single test sold on its own from the company will cost people £1.89, compared to £1.99 at rival Superdrug and £2 at Boots. 

Meanwhile Boots is selling its five-packs for £9.80 and Superdrug is offering them for £9.79.

Meanwhile, free parking for NHS staff working in hospitals in England will end on Friday, the Health Secretary said.

Parking fees were waived during the Covid-19 pandemic, but Mr Javid said that the benefit would end on Friday.

High street pharmacists today continued their war of prices ahead of free lateral tests being scrapped from next week. Graphic shows: Different price options at Boots, Superdrug and LloydsPharmacy

Lateral flow tests will be rationed to the elderly and vulnerable people as part of the final stage of No10’s living with Covid strategy — leading to fears people have been stockpiling the remainder of the free swabs in the meantime. Users have been unable to order tests on the Government’s site today

In a written statement, he said: ‘Free parking in hospital car parks for NHS staff introduced during the pandemic will also come to an end on 31 March.

‘However, over 93% of NHS trusts that charge for car parking have implemented free parking for those in greatest need, including NHS staff working overnight.’

He added: ‘On behalf of the Government, I would like to record my thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to keep people safe over the last two years and whose efforts have enabled us to move to the next stage of the Covid-19 response.’

Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB union, told the PA news agency: ‘Charging the NHS staff who’ve risked their lives during the pandemic to park at work is a sick joke.

‘After the years of Tory cuts NHS trusts are struggling, we know.

‘But scrabbling the money back off hard up workers is not the answer.

‘The Government must now legislate for free hospital staff parking once and for all.’

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the perk was ‘temporary’ and introduced in July 2020 ‘for the duration of the pandemic’.

It said that the scheme had cost around £130 million over the past two years.

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