Free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff once the universal testing offer ends on 1 April.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had previously announced that free testing for the general public would end on 1 April as part of the Living with COVID plan which last month set out the government’s strategy to live with and manage the virus.
Although COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations have risen in recent weeks, over 55% of those in hospital that have tested positive are not there with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis.
‘Ministers and the NHS are listening to nursing staff with these announcements. Nursing staff require access to free testing because many work in close proximity with clinically vulnerable people and we need to prevent hospitals and other care settings from becoming a place where COVID-19 spreads easily,’ said RCN Director for England Patricia Marquis.
‘Tight NHS and care budgets should not be asked to cover these costs - the government must continue to show its support for healthcare workers. The pandemic is far from over – COVID-related staff absence among NHS staff in England rose 60% in the last fortnight.’
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From 1 April, updated guidance will advise people with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19, and a high temperature or who feel unwell, to try stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until they feel well enough to resume normal activities and they no longer have a high temperature. Until 1 April individuals should continue to follow the current guidance.
From 1 April, anyone with a positive COVID-19 test result will be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious.
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‘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,’ said Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid.
‘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.’