NHS bosses call for free tests and isolation to remain
A group representing NHS bosses has called for free Covid testing and self-isolation rules to remain, following speculation that it could be scrapped.
The NHS Confederation said 75% of senior staff in England did not want self-isolation rules to end.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce new relaxations to Covid rules in England on Monday.
This could include scrapping PCR test centres and free lateral flow tests as part of a “living with Covid” strategy as well as an end to the self-isolation rule.
The government has spent billions of pounds on testing throughout the pandemic, with some experts stating in the future it could be used only in hospitals and care settings, or to deal with major outbreaks.
In the survey of more than 300 NHS leaders, four-fifths said they disagreed with the expected plan to end free testing.
And they also expressed the need for regular testing to continue for health staff and key workers.
Asked on Thursday if free Covid tests would be scrapped next week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We are looking at how we learn to live with Covid. And that does mean the protections we’ve enjoyed over the last few months, that they all should be reviewed.
“So we’re looking at the very latest data and next week we’ll have more to say about it.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the confederation, told the BBC: “Hospital admissions and deaths linked to coronavirus continue to fall nationally and this is allowing the NHS to bring back many routine services that it was asked to de-prioritise during the peaks of the pandemic, including some non-urgent elective procedures.
“With the success of the vaccine and new Covid treatments, this offers real hope as we learn to live with the virus.
“But the government cannot wave a magic wand and pretend the threat has disappeared entirely.”
He said not enough was yet known about how much long-term protection vaccines provided and there was still the uncertainty of future strains developing.
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