Thousands with Covid in Northamptonshire fear financial cost of getting tested, health expert says

"Twice as many cases still spreading infection out in the community," warns consultant

A health expert fears thousands of people are risking spreading Covid-19 around Northamptonshire because they are scared self-isolation will cost them too much money.

Centres in the county tested nearly 23,000 people in the week to February 5 identifying around 2,000 cases in Northamptonshire — about half the figure at the peak of the pandemic's second wave in early-January.

But those numbers do not stack up against data from the Office for National Statistics, leading to a belief that the true figure could still be double the known cases.

Northants health officials fear many people with Covid symptoms are avoiding being tested. Photo: Getty Images

County Council Public Health Consultant Rida Elkheir told last week's Oversight & Engagement Board meeting: "When you compare our positive cases to ONS sample data, we are discovering roughly one-third of the cases or even less.

"There is a bigger pool of cases out there that are not being directly discovered when we compare epidemiology from the ONS national sampling.

"This means there are twice as many cases still spreading infection out in the community that are not getting presented for testing.

"So this is a plea for everyone to get tested whenever they can. This is really a duty now."

Many believe the biggest reluctance to get tested is from those still going to workplaces who fear they will lose out financially if they have to follow NHS Test and Trace instructions to self-isolate for ten days.

Mr Elkheir added: "There is a perception among people who have to go out to work for their livelihood and some are not presenting themselves for testing even if they have symptoms simply because it might affect their income.

"This should not happen. Payments should be available through your employer or through a Government scheme.

"The importance of employers encouraging their employees to get tested, especially if someone presents with symptoms, is paramount.

"The new variant of the virus now accounts for 80 per cent of the cases being discovered in Northamptonshire and this is affecting all age groups — including younger ones and those of a working age.

"We are seeing more hospital admissions from these younger and middle-aged groups and some of these are quite severe. It is affecting everyone just the older and vulnerable.

"We are talking about a serious illness and nobody is safe."

Anyone self-isolating will be paid Statutory Sick Pay if eligible and several Government schemes are available to help those facing hardship after being told to stay at home.