End of free tests, self-isolation and masks is a ‘triple whammy’ for Covid Safety, union warns

Retail trade union Usdaw has urged the government not to end free test kits and the requirement to self-isolate next week, insisting that caution is still needed while infection rates and deaths are “still high”.

“We can see that rates of coronavirus infections and deaths are thankfully in overall decline, but they are still very high and it is still too soon to be lifting all Covid safety measures,” Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said.

“Ending free tests and the self-isolation rules will risk more infected people circulating in public and entering shops.

“Coupled with last month’s unnecessary end to mandatory face coverings in stores, that leaves shopworkers at greater risk of infection.

“We are also concerned that charging for tests will price out poorer people and low-paid workers, particularly if rumours of £100 per test are correct.

READ MORE: Usdaw urges customers to continue wearing face masks

“This is especially worrying given today’s research, led by the University of Manchester, revealing that the impact of the pandemic on the most deprived areas in England and Wales has been even more pronounced than first thought.”

Additionally, it is also calling for a better deal on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) including, improving SSP so it reflects average pay rather than the current £96.35 per week, workers earning below £120 per week to qualify for SSP and to commit paying SSP from day one for all absences, removing any reference to three waiting days.

Lillis added: “Being ill has a huge financial impact on low-paid workers, as too many are forced to live on Statutory Sick Pay of just £96.35 per week.

“Trade unions secured SSP from day one for Covid absences during the pandemic.

“This must continue and be extended to all sickness absences, along with sick pay reflecting average pay and being available to all workers.”

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