Scrapping of free Covid tests: 17,000 people in West Berkshire to face £500 "tax on caring"

The Liberal Democrats have warned that the scrapping of free Covid lateral flow tests will slap West Berkshire with a £9,118,804 “tax on caring,” with as many as 17,000 residents facing costs of over £500 a year to take regular tests and visit vulnerable relatives.

Despite the easing of Covid restrictions, the latest figures show that every week an estimated 17,068 people in West Berkshire take regular Covid tests, with 30,235 tests being taken in an average week. This includes people who take tests to protect their elderly relatives and friends, or vulnerable workers who work in people-facing industries such as hospitality and are concerned about their health. 

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats estimates that the 17,068 people in West Berkshire who take on average two tests a week face a hit of £534 a year, assuming lateral flow tests cost around £5.80 each. This represents a total ‘tax on caring’ for people in West Berkshire of £9,118,804 each year.

These people are part of the almost four million across England facing costs of over £500 a year after the decision was taken to scrap lateral flow tests. The move will be of particular concern for the 7,065 in West Berkshire previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, after the government’s own scientific advisers on the SAGE committee warned that removing free testing will “increase anxiety” and limit the “social participation outside the home” of those who are clinically vulnerable or who live with someone who is.

Liberal Democrat leader on West Berkshire Council and Spokesperson for Newbury, Lee Dillon, said:

“Charging people in West Berkshire for the tests they need to safely see vulnerable loved ones is a tax on caring, that risks leaving thousands in this area in lockdown by stealth.

“It means vulnerable people in our community will see fewer loved ones and will be able to enjoy less of their lives. It is unfair and unjust. 

“The Conservative MPs and Council administration in our area needs to make their voice heard and get behind scrapping these plans, to stop West Berkshire being hit with a cost of living with Covid crisis.

“Throughout the pandemic, the good people of West Berkshire have been trying hard to do the right thing and keep others safe. The Government should not be making that harder.”

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