Health chair ‘worried’ about end of free Covid-19 testing

Cllr Richard Howitt Covid test worries

Cllr Richard Howitt (inset) said he is worried about the impact that the end of free Covid-19 tests will have. - Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images/Harry Rutter

The chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s adult and health committee has said they are worried about the impact the end of free Covid-19 tests will have. 

Councillor Richard Howitt made the comments at a committee meeting on March 17 and in particular said he was worried about the impact the end of support will have for people on a lower income. 

“I’m worried about the lifting of the testing regime and that the extra help for poorer people to be able to isolate is being lost,” he said. 

“These are issues being discussed nationally, but I’m worried about that and its impact locally.” 

The committee was discussing the latest update on the Covid-19 situation from Jyoti Atri, Cambridgeshire’s director of public health. 

Ms Atri highlighted the policy changes from central government that had taken place, as well as upcoming changes. 

These included the removal of Covid-19 provisions within the statutory sick pay and employment and support allowance regulations from March 24. 

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This also includes the end of free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England from April 1. 

Cllr RIchard Howitt of Cambridgeshire County Council

Cllr Richard Howitt said he is worried about the impact that the end of free Covid-19 tests will have. - Credit: Harry Rutter

Ms Atri said that from April 1, people will not know if they have Covid-19, flu or a cold.  

She added that going forward, there will be a reliance on people with symptoms keeping themselves away from other people. 

In her update to councillors, Ms Atri explained there is an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases being reported nationally, and that hospital admissions are also increasing, which she said was reflective of more transmission in the community. 

She said that the area has stood down its major incident response due to the fact that the area is not seeing the previous levels of hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19. 

“[This is] still a nasty virus that does cause people to be unwell,” said Ms Atri.  

“We are seeing hospitalisations increase nationally, there is still a need for us to be careful and I am advising us to maintain the precautionary approach we have been taking.” 

Councillor Chris Boden said he felt it was important the county council needed to make sure it did not “overplay” the seriousness of the current situation or it would run the risk of losing its authority on the issue. 

He added that it was “essential” to learn to live with the virus, and welcomed the additional work on the vaccination programme.