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Francois, a medical worker, administers a nasal swab to a patient at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center in Noyal-Chatillon-sur-Seiche near Rennes, France, December 01, 2021. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Scrapping of free COVID-19 Tests could have a devastating effect on small businesses


The government have announced that they will be discontinuing all free access covid-19 tests across the country in the hope that their effects on vaccination programmes mean that there now is justification for reducing spending on COVID-19 related expenditures.

On the other hand, businesses across the country will be obliged to pay for their testing if they continue to examine whether their employees have coronavirus. Now, there are already fears that the removal of free Covid tests for the population, with concerns that smaller businesses and hospitality could be heavily affected.

Organisations and business groups are concerned about the cost, particularly small businesses. People are apprehensive about the government’s intention to ‘learn to live with the virus’ after a new high number of cases was reported this week. 

According to the Office for National Statistics’ most recent weekly update, 4.9 million people are now affected.After the number of infections reached an all-time high last week, some companies already see teams hit hard by Covid absences. It comes when firms are already dealing with rising prices and increased national insurance payments. 

Arecent report found that for industries in hospitality, such as pub owners, the cost of testing staff could add up to over four thousand pounds a year if they chose to do so, which could drive small businesses in shutting down simply because they do not have the budget to stretch and fund such costs.

Employees must also make a judgement about when and how to test, and this adds pressure on business owners who areincustomer-facingindustrieswho will face the cost of both supplying the tests for their staff and additionally losing out on money if their employees do test positive and then have to take time off work until they test negative again.

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Sandra Rowley at card payment specialists said:“SMEs have already had to overcome the inevitable challenges that came with navigating through a pandemic and yet, still haven’thad a chance to catch a break with increased supply and energy prices, and now, unfortunately, the news of the government discontinuing free COVID-19 tests.

In our survey, almost half of the business owners surveyed said staff shortages and supply chain issues have already caused a negative financial impact on their business. One in four describes the economic impact as significant or critical to their business (23%).

Now, SME owners in customer-facing roles like hospitality could face a bill of £4,000 a year to provide testing for their staff. This further emphasises the double cost anticipated from SMEs from purchasing covid tests for employees and potentiallylosing additional money from staff shortages if they are to test positive.

Officials from the Department of Health have claimed that the population’s protection from Covid had improved to the point where expenditures could be reduced because of immunisations.

However, this doesn’t address that people still take time off work if they test positive regardless of vaccination status. The government needs to consider how this scrapping of free tests with the added price hikes will affect small businesses’ sustainability in the long haul.

Changes such as these could put businesses stillrecovering on the brink of having to shut down, especially in industries such as retail and hospitality where staff need to be physically present.”


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