KATE OSBORNE: Why immunocomprised people must be protected and supported

Last week the Government announced plans to remove all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England, including the legal requirement for infected people to self-isolate.

“Some charities fear that vulnerable people may be forced back into isolation.” Picture posed by model.
“Some charities fear that vulnerable people may be forced back into isolation.” Picture posed by model.

Under the Government’s plan for living with Covid-19, restrictions in England have now reverted to guidance instead of legal rules.

By doing this, they said, it would make England the “freest country in Europe”.

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However, there are 500,000 immuno-compromised people at high risk from Covid-19 who are not free.

A number of leading charities including the MS Society, which represents immuno-compromised and disabled people, remain very concerned about the Government’s plans.

From April 1, their family members, friends and unpaid carers cannot be sure that they are not exposing those closest to them to infection unless they can pay for a test.

The scrapping of free universal testing has been described as “not only reckless but dangerous”, with some charities fearing that vulnerable people may be forced back into isolation.

Two weeks ago I wrote to the Prime Minister, raising these concerns and I raised this matter with him again during Prime Minister’s Questions in Westminster yesterday.

Throughout the pandemic, universal free testing has been a crucial tool, helping many vulnerable people to continue living normal lives by providing reassurance that those they are meeting do not have Covid.

Now universal free testing will be massively scaled back from the beginning of next month, and will instead be focused on the most vulnerable, with the Government developing further plans on who will be able to access free testing which it will announce shortly.

Ahead of this, I wanted to ensure that the Government are aware of these concerns. It really is essential that the Government continues to make sure that those at the highest risk continue to have the protection they need.

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Charities warn that the Government must continue to make free lateral flow tests available to people who are eligible for Covid-19 treatments and their households and personal contacts.

As a nation, we will be unable to live alongside Covid-19 if the Government continues to leave the most vulnerable behind.