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COVID-19 free tests: Mother’s fear for disabled daughter’s life as universal free COVID testing ends today

A mother whose disabled daughter is classed as extremely vulnerable has said the end of free COVID testing for most people in England from today could endanger her child’s life.

Nicola Slater’s daughter Rebecca has complex health needs and requires 24-hour care.

She fears the move to end universal free testing – which is part of the government’s ‘Living with COVID’ plan – could lead to people not taking sensible precautions.

Read more: Who can still get free lateral flow tests from today?

“Out and about in the community, if people aren’t going to test themselves and buy the tests then there’s going to be more [virus] out there, and how are we to know whether she’s going to be more at risk?” she told Sky News.

“It’s because disability is pushed under the carpet that I don’t think people even contemplate or understand what it is like to be a vulnerable person,” she said.

“I would prefer the mask-wearing to continue, in shops, public transport, hospitals and GP surgeries, which is where I take Rebecca.”

From today, free testing will only continue in England for certain groups, with others who think they have coronavirus simply urged to stay at home.

Some free testing will continue during April in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and until the summer in Wales.

Ministers in England have argued that even though infection levels have been rising, vaccines and antivirals are working to protect the vast majority of people.

The most recent data showed there were 15,632 people in hospital in England with COVID-19 as of Wednesday – up 18% week-on-week and the highest since 19 January.

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Read more: How can I get lateral flow tests now and how much do they cost?

Dr Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, told Sky News the move has the potential to increase COVID rates.

“The government seems to be in denial about the pandemic: the pandemic is continuing, and we have the highest rates of infection that we’ve ever had – one in 16 people in the community infected at this point in time,” she said.

“Doing away with things like testing, which help us detect people who are infected, so that they can then isolate will further fuel transmission.”

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