COVID: Who will still have access to free lateral flow tests and how much do they cost?

·3-min read
A Covid-19 Lateral Flow (LFT) self-test kit, containing a SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (AFP via Getty Images)
A Covid-19 Lateral Flow (LFT) self-test kit, containing a SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (AFP via Getty Images)

Free lateral flow tests were scrapped for the general public, as certain high risk groups will still have access.

This follows the “Living with Covid” strategy Boris Johnson announced in February that has ended mandatory self-isolation, travel restrictions – and since Friday 1 April, free lateral flow testing for the majority of UK residents.

Recent guidance advises those with Covid-19 symptoms to stay at home and “avoid contact with other people” for a recommended five days.

The Health Secretary said: “Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus.

“Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.”

When do free Covid tests end?

Free lateral flow tests were provided to the general public until Friday 1 April.

Ordering tests from the government website included answering questions on whether you have symptoms.

If answered no, a message stated that tests are “most needed” for those at higher risk and “for people who need them most”.

When could free Covid tests come back for the wider population?

Free testing could be reinstated if a dangerous new variant arises, so the government are storing lateral flow tests as a pre-emptive measure.

Who can still receive free lateral flow tests?

Sajid Javid announced that free testing will be provided to some groups showing symptoms and other asymptomatic groups who are at high risk of outbreaks.

Access to testing for NHS patients and patient-facing staff will continue, through existing testing programmes or self-order tests – and a small number of visitors to care homes and hospices providing personal care.

Some staff at high-risk closed settings will be provided asymptomatic testing, including care homes, hospices, domestic abuse refuges, homelessness settings, prisons and places of detention.

During outbreaks to minimise risk and the spread of Covid-19 variants, asymptomatic testing will be granted to residential special needs and disabilities schools, as well as care home staff and residents.

The plans announced that other groups who show symptoms may also have access to free testing – include:

· Some patients in hospital who require PCR tests to receive ongoing access to treatment pathways and for clinical management

· People eligible for Covid antiviral treatments, like Pfizer’s Paxlovid, who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill. This group will be contacted on how to reorder tests and sent lateral flow tests for home use if they show symptoms

How can I get a lateral flow test now?

The government has created an approved list of lateral flow test providers here with contact details.

Following a test, users can report their result on the government webpage here.

You can only register your result if using a government provider, as they warn that non-listed retailers may not meet minimum standards.

Order online or at your local pharmacy, including high street chains.

How much will lateral flow tests cost?

Lateral flow tests are much cheaper than PCRs.

High street options include Boots with a single test for £2.50, £12 for a pack of five or £17 for four with an option to send results to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Elsewhere, Superdrug is selling Healgen for just £1.99. Both stores offer Flowflex multipacks for just under £10.

Government listed provider Randox offers five tests for £15 and 12 at a sale price of £47.50.

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