Charity's call to save care home free virus tests

A dementia support charity is calling on people to sign a petition calling on the Government to change its mind over scrapping free coronavirus tests for care home visitors.

Danielle Cooper
Danielle Cooper

An Alzheimer’s Society poll found that 75% of people in the North East disagree with the plan and the charity has launched a petition, calling on the Health and Social Care Secretary to reverse the decision.

It has already got 5,000 signatures in less than a week – with almost 300 coming from the North East.

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Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced plans last week to scrap free Covid-19 tests for people visiting loved ones in care homes, as part of the wider scheme to end free testing from April 1 in the Government's 'Living with Covid-19' plan.

The charity says that – for someone visiting a loved one daily – this would amount to a potential cost of £73 a month.

Danielle Cooper, North East Area Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Lateral flow tests offer vital reassurance to families desperate to protect their loved ones with dementia from Covid-19. Following the devastating levels of infection and deaths in care homes that was caused by insufficient testing in the early part of the pandemic, there is a risk that we face repeating this deadly mistake.

“With over 39,000 living with dementia in the North East, families should not be financially penalised for trying to do their best and keep their vulnerable loved ones safe.

"Throughout the pandemic, care home residents have been the first to endure the risks and the last to enjoy the freedoms.”

She added: “Public opposition is clear, it’s time for the Government to rethink their plans and make lateral flow tests free for all visitors to care homes.”

In the early stages of the pandemic, thousands of patients were promptly discharged from hospitals.

The majority of those discharged were not tested for Covid-19, which led to the virus spreading quickly in those homes and high death rates.

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During the pandemic, more than 34,000 people with dementia have died of Covid-19 – many of those were residents in care homes.