Ovid-19 testing should continue to be free for all to protect people at serious risk of illness if they contract the virus, a group of charities have said.
Speculation has grown over whether the government’s Living With Covid strategy for England will signal the end of free PCR and lateral flow testing.
A coalition of 18 health charities supporting more than 500,000 immunocompromised people have called for testing to remain free.
Abandoning all measures without preventive treatments, free lateral flow tests and an obligation not to unnecessarily expose immunocompromised people to Covid risks making us second-class citizens
They warned that Covid-19 still poses a serious risk to some people as it sets out the steps the government can take to protect them in the Living With Covid plan, which is due to be released on Monday.
Charities have warned that dropping all measures risks making immunocompromised people ‘second-class citizens’.
Charities including the MS Society, Blood Cancer UK and Kidney Care UK have also said other steps the government can take include improving communication with immunocompromised people, giving them ‘smooth and rapid access to Covid treatments and improving job protection and employment support.
Charities point out how severely immunocompromised people don’t get as much protection from vaccines, and many are more likely to suffer serious illness if they catch Covid-19.
Fredi Cavander-Attwood, policy officer at the MS Society, said: âWe urge the government to stop ignoring the reality of our communities.
âThe Prime Minister must respond directly and immediately to their concerns as we enter this new phase of the pandemic.
âOur aim is not to reinstate blanket restrictions â we just want the 500,000 immunocompromised people, including some with MS, to be protected and supported to manage their risk so they can live normal lives.
“That’s why the government’s plan must include simple, common-sense measures, like keeping testing free, strengthening job protections for those at risk, ensuring they get treatment quickly if they catch Covid-19 and a plan for the use of preventive treatments.
“We all need to be able to live alongside Covid-19 – and that cannot happen if the government continues to leave the most vulnerable behind.”
Helen Rowntree, Director of Research, Services and Engagement at Blood Cancer UK, added: âWhile we understand why the government wants to lift restrictions, this needs to be accompanied by a plan for how they will protect those who are still at risk of the virus.”
Fiona Loud, director of policy at Kidney Care UK, added: âAbandoning all measures without preventive treatments, free lateral flow tests and an obligation not to expose immunocompromised people unnecessarily to Covid risks making us second class citizens. .
âAlthough Omicron is a milder disease for the general population, there remains uncertainty about future variants, further impact on high-risk groups; with a record of very poor communication, it will make things more difficult and increase anxiety for people with kidney disease who have already spent two years under the stress of Covid-19.