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Where to get cheap lateral flow tests

Need to do a Covid test? We've rounded up the cheapest places to buy them, and who may still be eligible for free tests

Covid cases have jumped again, but free tests are out of the window for most. So, we've rounded up where you can buy the cheapest Covid tests.

While some people may still qualify for free test packs, on the whole you'll need to buy your own – an added expense most of us could do without at the moment.

Nevertheless, if you want to check if you have Covid, or take precautions when visiting someone vulnerable, it's likely you'll still need to take a test every so often.

Read on to find out where the cheapest LFTs are available, and when to consider using one. 

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Where to buy cheap Covid tests

Most people are no longer eligible for free lateral flow tests from the NHS, but you can now buy them at some supermarkets and most high street pharmacies.

We've mostly looked at the price of a five pack as it's more cost effective to buy in bulk, and single test packets were less available when we looked. 

Single tests are typically around £2 per test, so avoid paying more than that if you can (available at Tesco and Waitrose). Opting for a multipack will usually save you at least 10p per test (they're typically £6 to £10 for five), but you could save up to 80p per test if you head to Asda.

  • Cheapest option: Wondfo 2019-nCoV antigen tests: 5 for £6 (£1.20 each), available at Asda
  • Step Ahead Covid-19 lateral flow tests: 5 for £9 (£1.80 each), available at Lloyd's Pharmacy 
  • Boson Covid-19 lateral flow tests: 5 for £9.29 (£1.90 each), available at Well Pharmacy
  • FlowFlex lateral flow tests: 5 for £9.59 (£1.92 each), available at Superdrug
  • FlowFlex lateral flow tests: 5 for £9.80 (£1.96 each), available at Boots

Who can get free lateral flow tests?

You can still get a free lateral flow test if you:

  • have a health condition that means you’re eligible for Covid-19 treatments
  • are going into hospital
  • work in the NHS or in adult social care.

Find out how to do this on the NHS Covid test minisite.

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When should you consider taking a test?

There isn't any official government guidance about when to test anymore, so people are having to weigh up when is sensible to do so.

There are some situations where you may now consider testing, but it's also important to remember that LFTs aren't perfectly accurate, and you also have to take into account other factors like your symptoms, if you've had contact with a confirmed case and whether you'll be seeing anyone who is particularly vulnerable.

LFTs are more prone to false negatives than positives, so if you have suspicious symptoms and test negative, it's still worth erring on the side of caution.

The onset of symptoms may start quicker than an LFT would detect an infection, so ideally people would isolate as much as possible if they have symptoms and then test a few days in. If it's not possible for you to isolate, it's still a good idea to test a few times over the course of your symptoms. 

Similarly, if you've had close contact with someone who has confirmed Covid, it doesn't make sense to test immediately as it's unlikely an LFT will pick it up straight away. But given the transmissibility of these variants, it's sensible to act with extra caution in this situation.

If you're going to be with someone who is vulnerable, additional measures on top of a negative LFT may be advisable – including meeting outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, and wearing masks if indoors.

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Symptoms of new Covid variants

Woman with headache

According to the ZOE Covid study, the top Covid symptoms at the moment are:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • blocked nose
  • dry cough
  • runny nose.

It's easy to mistake these for hay fever or vice versa. Covid symptoms tend to change slightly as new variants emerge, so don't assume Covid will present in a specific way. 

So far, there's no clear evidence to suggest that the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron lead to more severe illness or higher rates of hospitalisation, but they are spreading extremely fast, and plenty of people are experiencing reinfection even after a relatively recent prior bout of Covid, so it pays to play it safe.

Vaccination continues to be vitally important, and the UKHSA estimates that protection conferred by the vaccines against these new variants is comparable to previous variants.

Still, protection from vaccines does wane over time, so health bodies are urging anyone who has missed a vaccine to come forward for one, and the government has announced that over-50s will be eligible for their next Covid booster in the autumn. 

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