End to free Covid tests is like a tax on carers - Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey

IT is quite frankly irresponsible and heartless for this Conservative government to abandon free Covid testing.

Boris Johnson’s determination to remove all Covid precautions and his insistence that the public will have to take personal responsibility whilst removing their ability to assess the level of risk around them is absurd.

How on earth are people supposed to take responsibility for themselves when they may be forced to pay up to £600 a year for lateral flow tests at a time when the cost of living is skyrocketing?

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Boris Johnson and his government have become the least caring in history.

Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty.Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty.
Boris Johnson. Picture: Getty.

Although Covid is not the threat it once was, thanks to heroic work of our NHS staff and care workers, as well as the scientists that invented vaccines in record time, it is still dangerous to the elderly and to those who are vulnerable.

Many of these people rely on carers, often family and friends, to support them, and if not shielding, are taking extra precautions.

What use is a free test for these vulnerable people if the carer they rely on daily cannot visit them for lack of affordable testing?

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This week, I calculated that a carer doing just two tests a week would lead to costs of £622.96 a year. That’s nearly 20 per cent of their annual carer’s allowance of £3,500.

A lateral flow test. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images.A lateral flow test. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images.
A lateral flow test. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images.

For the unpaid carers to endure so much throughout the pandemic and its aftermath, to then be slapped with this huge Covid test bill is disgraceful.

The Tories are knowingly creating a cost of living with Covid crisis.

That some family carers could be forced to choose between a box of Covid tests or money for their weekly shop, after going above and beyond over the course of the pandemic, shows just how out of touch and uncaring Boris Johnson and his Cabinet really are.

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It is clear that they have learnt few lessons from this pandemic.

After the tragedy that unfolded in our care homes at the beginning of this crisis, the Conservative government is now forcing those who want to see their families in care homes to pay for a test that will keep their loved ones safe.

This decision is little more than a tax on caring and a tax on visiting loved ones.

It puts a financial burden on people and will lead to isolation for those in care homes whose families cannot easily afford these tests.

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The Tories of course claim that this is a necessary cost-saving measure. That is bogus. The cost will fall on the shoulders of carers, as it always does every time this Conservative government ignores them.

My party and I, alongside others, fought back to keep testing free for everyone as long as it is needed. We believe that no one should have to pay to keep their loved ones safe.

Despite this, the Tories are still set on ending it. This is a mistake.

Again and again, the Government has botched the handling of this pandemic.

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And this is the latest in a long litany of decisions made more to keep Conservative MPs happy and to save the Prime Minister’s own skin, than for concerns about people’s health.

What is all the more shocking is that despite clearly planning this for months, with various private briefings to the press and “leaks” leading up to the announcement, Boris Johnson hasn’t even worked out which groups are going to be exempt from charging.

This shockingly poor planning shows not only that carers continue to be an after-thought for this government, but also a glaring lack of competence and absolute disregard for the impact this will have on people’s day-to-day lives.

And as has become seemingly routine, the Government has intentionally not published the scientific advice underpinning its decision.

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People should be able to decide for themselves whether they feel abandoning free testing is sensible, and it is critical that this advice is made public.

Many already agree that tests should stay free.

Like them, I believe that this heartless Conservative government must reverse course.

Boris Johnson must take action and ensure that tests remain free for all carers. He must stop taking them for granted and treating them as an after-thought.

Sir Ed Davey MP is leader of the Liberal Democrats, and a family carer.