Tory plans to scrap free Covid tests will lead to £500 annual ‘caring tax’

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Boris Johnson is expected to announce the end of all remaining regulations in England this week – but he faced a warning of a ‘cost of living with Covid crisis’

Boris Johnson’s plan to scrap free Covid tests would impose a £500-a-year “caring tax” on people looking after the most vulnerable, ministers have been warned.

The Prime Minister will set out his blueprint for living with the virus on Monday, where he is expected to axe remaining Covid regulations in England.

Self isolation requirements for positive cases are expected to be repealed within days, and the PM is also tipped to set a date when free Covid tests will stop.

But the scope of the plan to end mass free tests to save cash is reportedly subject to a dispute among top Tories.

Around 4 million people take regular Covid tests according to the latest UKHSA data, including those who visit or care for vulnerable friends and relatives.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats suggest people who take two tests a week face a hit of £534 a year, based on the average cost of lateral flow tests in countries like Belgium, France, Spain and the US.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: “Charging people for the tests they need to safely see vulnerable loved ones is a tax on caring, that risks leaving millions of people in lockdown by stealth.

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

“Ministers need to scrap these plans to stop a cost of living with Covid crisis.”

Mr Johnson said it was time to move away from strict Covid curbs and to allow people to take their own decisions.

“We have reached a stage where we think you can shift the balance away from state mandation, away from banning certain courses of action, and compelling certain courses of action, in favour of encouraging personal responsibility,” he told the BBC.

Mr Johnson said testing would be “at a much lower level” and that “we don’t need to keep spending at a rate of £2 billion a month”.

Asked if the move could mean the possibility of losing early warning signals, he said: “I want to make sure that we have capability to spot stuff and to snap back up as fast as we need to.”

The PM added: “We need resilience but we don’t need to keep, for instance on testing, we don’t need to keep spending at a rate of £2 billion a month, which is what we were doing in January.”

Asked how Covid will be spotted if there is no testing, Mr Johnson: “We will be testing at a much lower level.

“I’m afraid what we can’t do is continue with the – as the number of cases diminishes and certainly the number of patients in hospital is thankfully coming down now, the number of cases in ICU is certainly way, way down, we’re in a different world.

“I think it is important that people should feel confident again and that people should feel able to go back to work in the normal way. I do want to see our country really getting back on its feet.