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New guidance outlines free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups once free testing for the general public ends on 1 April.

People at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and eligible for treatments, will continue to get free tests to use if they develop symptoms, along with NHS and adult social care staff and those in other high-risk settings, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid announced today (Tuesday 29 March).

Free testing for the general public ends 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.

Free universal testing has come at a significant cost to the taxpayer, with the testing, tracing and isolation budget costing over £15.7 billion in 2021-22. This was necessary due to the severe risk posed by COVID-19 when the population did not have a high level of protection.

Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme and access to antivirals, alongside natural immunity and increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk, the population now has much stronger protection against COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic.

This is enabling the country to begin to manage the virus like other respiratory infections.

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.

Advice will be provided for individuals who need to leave their home when they have symptoms or have tested positive, including avoiding close contact with people with a weakened immune system, wearing a face-covering and avoiding crowded places.

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source: Cabinet Office

Date: 30 March

Posted in News on Mar 30, 2022

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