Bereaved criticise axing of free testing as UK Covid death toll passes 200,000

A man who lost his grandmother to coronavirus has said free testing and other measures should never have been axed, as he reflected on the “absolutely heart-rending and tragic” milestone of 200,000 deaths of people with the virus in the UK.

Amos Waldman, a member of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, said he feels grief, upset and anger at the UK death toll and that the public inquiry into the pandemic must start “as soon as possible”.

It is “just absolutely shocking to see that the same mistakes really have been repeated throughout, and so far the Government is completely unable to learn any lessons”, he said.

A total of 200,247 people in the UK have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

One of these is Mr Waldman’s grandmother, Sheila Lamb, 94, (pictured) who moved into a care home in March 2020, and died with coronavirus just weeks later on April 2.

Mr Waldman, 42, from Stockport, near Manchester, said it is “difficult to put into words how traumatic it was”, and said the current high prevalence of cases is causing bereaved families like his to “relive some of that trauma”.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s absolutely heart-rending and tragic that we’re in this position.

“Initially, Patrick Vallance described in a select committee what a good result would be – 20,000 deaths.

“So, it’s just mind-blowing that we’ve exceeded that so much. And it is possible with relatively simple measures to keep transmission low.”

Mr Waldman, who has an immune condition, described removing masks in hospitals as “appalling” and criticised the decision to end free testing.

He said: “That should never have stopped for people. It’s just wholly wrong for marginalized people who don’t have the means to pay – especially at the moment with a cost-of-living crisis – to pay large amounts for tests.

“It’s just not encouraging people to test, and people aren’t isolating, there’s pressure from employers to go into work (when Covid positive), which just shouldn’t be happening, and returning far too early.

“It’s horrendous, at the moment.”

He said the Government should be producing messaging on mask-wearing in busy, enclosed spaces and meeting up outdoors.

It is “disheartening” that the Conservative leadership candidates do not appear to be prioritising coronavirus in their bids for power, he said.

He added: “But I’m hoping that something is done, because this isn’t sustainable to do what we’re doing at the moment.

“This isn’t living with Covid, it’s just ignoring it and getting more and more mortality and morbidity.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Bonita Waldman / PA.