The Government’s scrapping of free Covid tests combined with an expansion to the NHS list of symptoms will trigger a “free for all” of staff absences, experts have warned. MailOnline has more.
The vast majority of employees in England are now unable to get any free swabs as part of Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.
But health chiefs advise people to “stay at home” if they have any of the 12 newly-recognised symptoms, which can be “very similar” to ones brought on by colds or the flu.
It means, in the absence of a test, people suffering cold-like symptoms will be left to decide “whether or not they stay at home and for how long”, unions say.
Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the ISU, the union for borders, immigration and customs, warned that it is “inevitable” staff will be off work with mild symptoms if they are unable to confirm whether or not they have Covid.
Unions also fear the chaos will only drive transmission up, with Covid levels already at a pandemic high in England and one in 12 people thought to be currently infected.
Only the elderly, most vulnerable and health and social care workers can access tests for free. Tests are, however, available at high street retailers such as Boots for £2.
England’s mass swabbing regime – thought to cost up to £2billion-a-month – was ditched under Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.
It marked one of the final steps on the route back to normal life, after mandatory self-isolation rules were scrapped in mid-February.
Workers who test positive no longer have to legally self-isolate, although they are still advised to “stay at home and avoid contact with other people”. The NHS also says that they should take “extra care” to avoid making contact with anyone at higher risk of the virus.
NHS Covid advice also says: “You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.’”