Covid Scotland: Call for wider access to antivirals and testing as vulnerable Scots ‘forgotten about’

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A Lanarkshire man with advanced Parkinson’s disease said he feels “forgotten”, as he is not eligible for antiviral Covid treatments or for free symptomatic lateral flow tests (LFTs) after April.

Martin Purchase, 67, is concerned about getting seriously ill if he catches the virus.

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People with neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease and Huntington’s are eligible for antivirals, which include remdesivir and molnupiravir and are undergoing continued trials.

Martin and Fiona Purchase

Those eligible for antivirals will continue to have access to free Covid lateral flow tests after the end of April if they have symptoms and are seeking treatment.

Parkinson’s UK labeled the exclusion of people with Parkinson’s “simply unacceptable”, while the Neurological Alliance of Scotland (NAoS) said the decision “makes no sense” and will lead to unnecessary deaths and people “living in fear”.

A spokesperson for the NAoS said: “Our communities are facing the scary prospect of soon having no more access to free LFTs, uncertainty over how long others will protect them by wearing a mask, and soaring Covid-19 rates.

“Provision of anti-virals to anyone with a compromised immune system who contracts Covid-19 is essential, if we are to avoid unnecessary deaths, and a continuation of people living in fear.”

Martin and Fiona Purchase

Mr Purchase’s wife Fiona labeled the scrapping of testing an “absolutely ludicrous decision”.

Mr Purchase has advanced Parkinson’s and has had several infections in recent years, which have “really floored him”, she said.

“The idea that people aren’t going to be able to test before going out to something… how can we then go out?” she said.

“It feels like we’ll be locked into permanent exclusion. Everybody else is getting back to normal, thinking we have passed the pandemic, but we haven’t. It just leaves people like Martin and myself behind.”

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Tanith Muller, parliamentary and campaigns manager at Parkinson’s UK Scotland, said the charity was “disturbed” that only those eligible for antivirals would be able to access free lateral flow testing from May.

“Testing enables many people with Parkinson’s and other serious conditions to feel safe to go about their lives,” she said.

“We fear that this will force some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people back into self isolation, creating a cohort of scared, isolated individuals existing in their homes with no support. The Scottish Government must take action and extend basic protections to everyone who is at high risk.”

While those with multiple sclerosis are eligible for antivirals, the MS Society also called for wider access to testing after April.

“If we’re to truly move forward and live with Covid, the Scottish Government must make sure friends and family of people at higher risk can get free tests. Without this, we’re concerned it will force many back into isolation,” said director Morna Simpkins.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Thanks to the vaccination program providing high levels of protection and new treatment significantly reducing the direct harms of the virus, Test and Protect will now focus on protecting those in highest risk settings and to support patient treatment and care. ”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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