AUTHOR: James Dowen

JUST WILLIAM: Failing The Test

We’re all sick of COVID. Talking about it, thinking about it, getting it, and in more serious cases, having our lives impacted by it. And I would love nothing more than to wake up tomorrow in a world where this entire pandemic hadn’t taken place. But sadly that is not the case.

The scrapping of all COVID restrictions in England from Thursday is a bid from the Government to – amongst other political calculations – move on from the pandemic, as part of their plan for ‘living with COVID’, and the ending of free mass testing (from the first of April) presumably comes under that banner (whilst also saving the Government a large sum of money.

However, for all that great progress has been made against COVID in England thanks to vaccinations – and the fortune that Omicron has not been a more severe variant – to declare victory at this point would be foolish.

There has been a welcome drop in cases, deaths and hospital admissions – and one which has been taking place at a steady rate over the past few weeks – but they are coming down from an incredibly high point. Even today there were 30,080 cases in England and the last day’s hospital admissions (18th February) showed 1,042 admissions in the UK. During their last survey, Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection figures last week estimated that one in 20 people in England “would test positive for the virus”.

The point of sharing the data above is not to scare anyone reading, or to be a naysayer. With any luck these falls will continue, and we can look forward to a summer free of any COVID worries. However, it is indisputable that people testing themselves for the disease, and then self-isolating if they have or (or are confirmed contacts) has presented spread of COVID – and is probably contributing to falling cases now.

This is not necessarily an argument for keeping testing in perpetuity; At some point a review of the costs is inevitable, and people will eventually adapt to a different situation with COVID.

However, of all the measures to prevent spread, testing is the simplest (at least at an individual level) and least onerous way of avoiding positive contacts – especially in high-risk settings, or before gatherings of any kind. And whilst the cost to the government is high, it’s worth remembering that avoiding increased spread can bring significant savings in other areas.

Professor Oliver Johnson of Bristol University noted that a figure of £15bn pounds on testing and payments for isolation would be £220 per head (roughly) but the peak COVID hospitalisation rate of 4,000 admissions a day would be £10,000 per patient.


This doesn’t mention there’s then the avoidance of closing indoor spaces due to outbreaks, school days being lost, and many other consequences of widespread COVID cases – not to mention the easing of pressure on the NHS for those who unfortunately do end up needing hospital care.

One can debate whether it’s a good idea to end free testing – it’s clear the public doesn’t believe so right now, according to the YouGov poll below – or indeed when to do so, but ending mandatory self-isolation for those who test positive is an even more confusing move, which leads me to ask one question: Who does it benefit?

In non-COVID news…..

One of the great things about having a column is finding incredible stories to put in each week. Dear reader, please enjoy my story of the Ukraine crisis so far:

Please enjoy these two magnificent threads….

And a very good post on the Sir Mark Todd controversy, by my friend The Bearded Jockey:


Until next week – thanks for reading!

William Kedjanyi

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.