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Charities issue warning over ending Covid rules

The end of coronavirus rules could impact society's most vulnerable people, including almost 100,000 previously identified across Staffordshire and the Black Country, charities have warned.


It comes as charities have also called into question a controversial decision to scrap free lateral flow tests from April 1.

The announcement, included in the Government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan, has been labelled a potentially ‘deadly mistake’ by Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity.

Its chief executive, Kate Lee, has written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid urging an immediate rethink on the changes.

Hazel Bayley, head of services for Alzheimer’s Society in the West Midlands, said: “Free lateral flow tests are a crucial part of protecting people living with dementia in care homes, and it is essential their loved ones have free access to them so they can visit safely.

“A lack of testing when people were shockingly discharged into care homes at the start of the pandemic resulted in tens of thousands of residents catching the virus and by not offering free tests to visitors the Government is in danger of repeating the same, deadly mistake.

“The scaling back of free community testing will put family members and carers, desperate to keep their loved ones safe, out of pocket at a time when the cost of living is already rising.

“Ending the need for people to self-isolate after a positive test will also leave many feeling anxious about catching coronavirus as they try to get on with their lives.

“Social isolation has already wrought untold devastation on people affected by dementia and the Government must now ensure that its ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan works for everyone, not just those less vulnerable to coronavirus.”

Alzheimer’s Society is calling for care home visiting guidelines to be as clear as possible, along with rules on self-isolation and access to PPE for health and care staff.

The charity wants free lateral flow testing for everyone living with dementia and their carers, and to see the over-75 booster drive prioritise care homes and those receiving care in their own homes.

By the time the shielding programme came to an end on September 30 last year, almost 100,000 patients in Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, Stafford and South Staffordshire were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.

It followed an expansion of the list in February 2021 to include 1.7 million more people thought to be at risk nationally.

On Thursday, all coronavirus laws in England – including the legal requirement for people who test positive to isolate – came to an end as part of the Government's strategy of living with Covid.

The Clinically Vulnerable Families support group said the move has left people who were once on the list in a "state of shock and anxiety".

Lara Wong, founder of the organisation, said: "The lack of government guidance puts vulnerable people in a difficult position.

"The removal of protections means that the risk of catching Covid will increase."

She said these protections had allowed vulnerable people a "small taste of freedom", but without clear guidance they must now make "impossible choices" between lives and livelihoods.

Disability charity Scope said many disabled people will feel forgotten by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's strategy.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it recognises the importance of ensuring people at higher risk from Covid-19 receive the right advice.

A spokeswoman added: "This may be particularly important for those whose immune system means that they are at higher risk.

“Vaccines are the best way we can protect ourselves from the virus and we continue to urge all those eligible to get boosted now.”

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