CARE leaders have condemned plans to make visitors to health care settings pay for Covid-19 tests.

The Independent Care Group (ICG) - which covers care providers in North Yorkshire and York - urged the Government to reverse the proposal which it said was penalising those who had suffered enough.

Free Covid-19 tests will end in April but people visiting loved ones in care settings, including care and nursing homes, will still need a test to visit.

It comes as the prime minister delivered his plan for living with coronavirus on Monday – also featuring an end to mandatory self-isolation.

However, the official public health advice will remain that people testing positive for the virus should stay at home for five days. 

The Northern Echo: Lateral Flow Test. Picture: PALateral Flow Test. Picture: PA

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Caring families have suffered enough without having this further indignity thrust upon them. This is penalising those who have suffered enough already.

“This cost is going to fall on those who are doing that most precious and vital thing – visiting a loved one. It is wrong on every level and shows the flagrant disregard the Government has for the care sector.

“If, in a civilised society, we cannot enable people to visit their loved ones without having to bear the cost of measures to keep them safe, then we are in a sorry state indeed.

“What happens to a family – maybe two or three people – who want to visit a beloved father, mother, or grandparent two, three or even four times a week? Are we saying unless you pay up you can’t?

“This is treating social care with contempt and we urge the Government to rethink it immediately.”

The Northern Echo: Mike Padgham, of the Independent Care Group, York and North YorkshireMike Padgham, of the Independent Care Group, York and North Yorkshire

Read more: Sajid Javid reveals how new UK Covid plan could look

The Northern Echo asked the Health Secretary Sajid Javid whether the government was comfortable with families becoming priced out of attending work or visiting loved ones in hospitals or care homes due to the costs.

On a visit to Billingham, Teesside, last week Mr Javid said the government will “respond to the latest data”.  

He said: “It has to be based on the threat that we see from Covid at the time, and it’s important that we keep that under review constantly. But I’m confident, with the advice we will get, that we will make decisions that will protect us all from Covid-19.”

But Durham City MP Mary Kelly Foy warned it would be 'reckless' to start ignoring Covid now.

She said: "It's staggering that when the scientific evidence shows that we are beating the virus, the Government has chosen to get rid of the key ways in which we have been tracking the virus' spread.

"Removing free mass testing is a short-sighted decision which will hit poorest hardest, but also risks costing many much more.

"Living with covid does not mean we can just ignore it - it is reckless to think otherwise."

Read more: Ignoring Covid would be 'reckless'

Yet Richard Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, countered Ms Foy’s claims by saying “Britain is a freedom loving country”.

He added: “I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has said that he will now remove all restrictions over the next six weeks.

“Now is the moment where we need to learn to live with Covid as an endemic virus in our towns and villages.”

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