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30 Mar 2022

How to get a Covid lateral flow test from 1 April

Free Covid tests will only be available for select groups from next month as part of the government's 'Living with Covid' plan
woman taking lateral flow test

As part of the government's 'Living with Covid' plan, unless you fulfil certain criteria, people living in England will have to pay for a lateral flow or PCR test from the start of April.

There will no doubt be some concerns about the scrapping of free tests, especially with the rise of Covid infections and hospitalisations in recent weeks.

According to the government, the new strategy will allow us to 'to begin to manage the virus like other respiratory infections', particularly as we have much stronger protection against Covid-19 as a result of the vaccine.

It follows the announcement last month that scrapped the legal self-isolation period for anyone in England who tests positive for the virus.

We explain below how to get hold of a Covid test from 1 April, who is still eligible to get them for free, and how the rules will affect you depending on what country you live in.

Covid testing, masks and isolation changes: what are the rules now?

Who can get still get a free Covid test?

Up until 1 April, lateral flow tests and PCR tests (for anyone with symptoms) have been provided for free. However from the start of April, if you live in England and have Covid symptoms, you'll only be able to get a free test if you come under the following groups:

  • A patient in hospital, where a PCR test is required for your care
  • People who are eligible for community Covid-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19. People in this group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests.
  • People living or working in high-risk settings. This includes care homes, prisons and hospices where staff will be able to test regularly even if they don't have symptoms.

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have Covid symptoms, such as a high temperature, the advice from 1 April will be to stay at home and avoid contact with others. Once you feel well enough and your high temperature has gone, it's advised you can then resume normal activities.

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people where possible. Once their high temperature has gone and they feel well enough, they can return to school.

The government has provided a list of approved lateral flow and PCR test providers along with contact details, should you need to buy a test.

This list includes pharmacies as well as high street retailers such as Boots and Superdrug.

Boots has confirmed customers will be able to buy tests for £2.50, or a pack of four for £9.50.

Superdrug will be selling a single test for £1.99 or a pack of five for £9.79.

Nine new Covid symptoms added to the official NHS list

As the provision of free Covid testing ends, the official list of symptoms has been expanded.

There are now nine new symptoms on the list and 12 in total.

In addition to the existing symptoms of a high temperature, a new and persistent cough, and anosmia, there is now also:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

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lateral flow test result

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What about the rest of the UK?

While free Covid tests for the general public are set to end in England, some free testing will continue in other parts of the UK.

In Scotland some free testing will continue until 18 April, after which free lateral flow tests won't be available to the majority of people. Healthcare workers, hospital patients and those visiting high-risk settings will still have access to free tests.

In Wales, freely available PCR tests will stop from 28 March. You'll be able to order free lateral flow tests until the end of June, but only if you have symptoms.

Northern Ireland has said that a review into Covid testing is 'ongoing' and hasn't confirmed any changes yet.

How much are you willing to pay for lateral flow tests?