Who will get free tests under new Covid plan?
- Credit: PA
New changes as part of the government's living with Covid plan are set to be rolled out on Friday (April 1).
People with a cold will be urged to "stay home and avoid contact" under new guidance as free testing for the general public ends.
Here is everything you need to know about the changes.
What is happening?
Although Covid infections and hospitalisations have increased in recent weeks, over 55pc of those in hospital that have tested positive are not there with coronavirus as their primary diagnosis.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said testing has come at a “significant cost” to the taxpayer, with the testing, tracing and isolation budget costing more than £15.7 billion in 2021/22.
But it said it will retain the ability to ramp up testing if needed, including keeping a stockpile of lateral flow tests.
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Are any free tests still being offered?
Free tests will still be available to some NHS, social care and hospice staff without symptoms of Covid when rates of the virus are high.
But routine tests for care home and hospice residents will no longer continue and will only be provided in the event of an outbreak or a resident being admitted.
Visitors to hospitals and social care settings will no longer be required to take a test.
Who is eligible for free tests?
In a statement, health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed three groups of people will continue to get free tests if they have symptoms of the virus.
Some hospital patients, some people at high risk of severe Covid-19, and people who live or work in “high-risk settings” including NHS and social care settings or prisons.
What if I have symptoms?
If you have symptoms and need to leave home, you will be urged to wear masks, avoid crowded places and stay away from people with weakened immune systems.
What if I test positive?
After Friday, people who have a positive Covid-19 test are advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious.
Those who are positive, or have symptoms, and need to leave home will be urged to wear masks, avoid crowded places and stay away from people with weakened immune systems.
Children who are unwell and have a high temperature are being advised to stay home and avoid contact with other people where they can.
They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature and they are well enough to attend, the government said.
Do I still need to wear a face mask?
Masks are no longer legally required in most public spaces but are advised in some situations.
Face coverings should still be used in healthcare settings such as GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes.
What have the government said?
Mr Javid said: “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.
“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.”
What else should I know?
Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said that the focus is now on those most at risk of serious illness from the virus while encouraging people to follow simple steps to keep safe.
She said: “The pandemic is not over and how the virus will develop over time remains uncertain. Covid still poses a real risk to many of us, particularly with case rates and hospitalisations on the rise.
"That is why it is sensible to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, keep indoor spaces ventilated and stay away from others if you have any symptoms of a respiratory illness, including Covid."
The DHSC said it will continue the Covid-19 infection survey through the Office for National Statistics for another year to monitor outbreaks, and some other studies will also continue.
But it announced that free parking introduced for hospital staff during the height of the pandemic will end on Friday.
Ministers also revealed a series of changes to adult social care including continuation of free personal protective equipment for adult social care workers.
They said that fresh infection prevention and control guidance will be published for the sector.