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Profiteering in a crisis

March 19, 2020 3:26 PM
By Peter Black

The Guardian reports(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/private-firms-criticised-over-295-coronavirus-testing-kits )that private health firms have come under fire for profiting from the coronavirus pandemic by selling thousands of testing kits for up to £295 each - while front line NHS workers go without.

They say that one chain of private clinics in the Midlands has ramped up the cost of its home delivery coronavirus testing kit from £149 to £249 in just a matter of days - a 67% price increase. Another firm, which normally lets patients book face-to-face GP appointments via an app in London, is selling home tests for £295, boasting laboratory results within 72 hours for what it warns is a "lethal" disease. The firm claims it was in talks with an unnamed NHS body after being approached about providing testing for staff:

It comes amid growing concern that NHS workers are not getting access to tests, with some forced into isolation for two weeks if someone in their household is showing symptoms - meaning they cannot treat patients.

Celebrities, sports stars, the wealthy and business people have talked of testing positive or negative for Covid-19 while members of the public and health professionals with clear symptoms of the virus have been unable to get tests via Public Health England (PHE).

Idris Elba, the star of Luther, posted on Instagram this week that he had tested positive for the virus even though he had not displayed any symptoms. The Arsenal head coach, Mikel Arteta, also tested positive for Covid-19, and the club tested the whole team. A spokesman for the club declined to comment on the suggestion that the team were tested privately.

PHE moved last week to stop testing people for coronavirus if their symptoms were not severe enough to warrant hospital treatment. However, on Wednesday Boris Johnson announced plans to dramatically scale up its operation and to test 25,000 people a day for the disease.

This sort of profiteering from a health crisis is appalling, but it seems that the only way it can be stopped is if the government provides tests for all those who want it, thus undercutting the market. Surely that is something that needs to be actively considered in any case

If you believe NHS staff need preferential access to testing please sign the following petition https://www.change.org/p/test-frontline-nhs-staff-for-covid-19-as-a-priority-coronavirusoutbreak