End of free Covid tests misguided, testing expert warns

Government plans to end all Covid restrictions from 1st April are short sighted, and take no account of the 30% of people who may develop PASC, or Long Covid, according to Covid-19 testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman.

The chief scientific officer at the London Medical Laboratory says now is not the time to be scrapping contact tracing or legal self-isolation rules, and it is absolutely not the time to end free Covid testing.

“April 1st is a grimly appropriate date to end the provision of free Covid testing in England. Infection rates remain high and there are still significant numbers of people in hospital with the virus. Even the government’s own top scientists have urged them to change their minds and have suggested the changes could lead to an increase in hospitalisations.

“The new ‘Living with Covid’ plans are foolish as they do not consider the significant number of Covid patients who go on to develop long-term symptoms that will have an impact on their quality of life, reduce their performance at work and cost the NHS millions in the future. It’s vital that people know if they have contracted Covid-19, rather than another virus such as influenza, so that they can look out for any of the various PASC / Long Covid symptoms that scientist and doctors are increasingly concerned about.”

There are an estimated 1.3 million people in the UK currently suffering from Long Covid symptoms, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“That may only constitute 2% of the population, but there’s mounting concern that the true number of long-term sufferers is higher and will continue to grow, especially if we have another surge of infections,” Dr Fivelman said.

A study carried out last year by the University of Washington found that in a random group of Covid patients (over 80% of whom were never hospitalised for the virus), approximately 30% reported persistent PASC symptoms as long as nine months after illness. And in separate University of Leicester study of just over 1,000 people who had needed hospital treatment for Covid, the majority (seven in 10) had not fully recovered five months after they were discharged.

“Continued knowledge of Covid’s prevalence will enable us to prepare for the increasing impact of PASC / Long Covid illnesses and to understand new variants entering the UK. The axing of free Covid testing means we are very likely to lose this overall picture. The government claims free Covid testing costs it around £2bn a month, but if it ends testing too soon, that could be significantly than the final bill for businesses and the NHS if PASC symptoms continue to escalate,” Dr Fivelman addded. “Long-term symptoms in some PASC patients may be due to organ or tissue injury, or associated clotting or inflammatory processes experienced during their initial bout of Covid-19.”

Dr Quinton Fivelman features in the March-April issue of CIR Magazine, in which we explore the personnel risk management and employer liability issues surrounding Long Covid.

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