With the number of COVID cases in the UK once again on the rise, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Ian Moncur, has expressed concern that the Government is ending free LFD COVID testing from Friday 1st April,
Cllr Moncur said: “From Friday 1st April rapid LFD tests that people can use to make sure they are not carrying the coronavirus without showing symptoms, will no longer be available free for most people.
“Using regular LFD tests has let us know when we have the COVID virus without feeling unwell or showing the symptoms, and as a result we have been able to protect others and not pass it on unwittingly.
“I am worried that with COVID case numbers and hospitalisations in the UK already rising, people will not be able to afford to start paying pay for tests when they face huge rising prices in the shops and at petrol stations, an eye-watering leap in the cost of domestic fuel, increased train fares and, from next month the Government’s National Insurance hike.
“This could lead to a rise in infection levels across Sefton’s communities and increased pressure on our medical services again.”
Currently, people in Sefton can collect free, rapid LFD test kits from the Borough’s COVID 19 Test Centres at Bootle Town Hall, Bootle Strand Shopping Centre and Southport Splash World rapid test centres. People who want support with testing can also get their test, and advice, at one of the Centres.
However, with the Government ending funding for local testing from the start of April, these test centres will close.
Cllr Moncur also says he is worried that the charges for tests, which could be as much as £6 each, will mean households on the lowest incomes, already making difficult decisions about whether to eat or heat their homes, will have to make a further choice on whether they can afford a COVID test before visiting someone who is potentially vulnerable.
He said: “Once again, despite the Government’s talk about levelling up, those least able to pay are being put at the most risk with a greater chance they might unknowingly passing on COVID to those vulnerable relatives, friends and colleagues.
“We will continue to give out the free test packs at our Test Centres while stocks last until Thursday 31st March when we have to close them.”
Sefton Council is continuing to advise that people remain cautious and considerate to others, continuing to wear face coverings in busy indoor areas and on public transport and maintaining social distancing where necessary.
For the rest of March, people who do have coronavirus symptoms of a new continuous cough, a fever or a loss of smell or taste, can still get a PCR test at one of Sefton’s four local walk-through test centres. These are located at Bootle Town Hall, Crosby Library Car Park, Haigh Road, Netherton Activity Centre and Southport Town Hall and are open every day from 8am to 6pm. They will also close after Friday 1st April.
Drive-through Mobile Testing Units will also be visiting Litherland Sports Park, Maghull Town Hall and Southport, Esplanade Park and Ride through March. A link to the schedule can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/testing-in-sefton
People can book a PCR test by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or calling 119.