From the 1st April 2022, most people in England have no longer been able to get free PCR or Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs). A few groups of people, including frontline NHS staff will still be entitled to free tests, otherwise you can no longer apply online to get a free test.
In Wales and Scotland there is still opportunity for free tests for the public but this will all be scrapped by the end of June.
How Is COVID Testing Changing In The UK?
Over 75s and over 12s with weakened immune systems will still be able to receive the free LFTs post-March, but even people with symptoms will not be entitled to either a free NHS PCR or free online lateral flows.
This is part of the government’s plan to live with COVID-19, this goes along with other government policies such as scrapping any travel restrictions when travelling into the UK and ending the legal requirement for isolation when testing positive in the UK.
Many believe that there will be a move in the UK from population-wide covid testing to a more ‘occupational health and wellbeing’ approach within businesses more so than amongst the general public. This could mean that businesses choose to test taff should they come down with covid symptoms as part and parcel of their workplace health and wellbeing policies, but this remains to be seen.
Who Can Still Get A Free PCR or LFT In The UK?
There are still some groups in the UK who are able to get a covid test in the UK in the form of a free PCR or LFT if they develop systems or are worried if they have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19.
According to government guidance, the people that can still receive a free PCR or LFT test are:
- NHS staff who care for patients
- hospital patients who need PCRs before treatment
- care home residents
- people working in high-risk settings, including care homes and prisons
- patients who are discharged from hospital into care homes or hospices
Ahead of the deadline, the lateral flow test website said that none were available in the UK with extremely high demand all over the country.
The government had capped the amount of LFT boxes that you could order but this did not stop the high-demand that took place in the last few days of March before the tests stopped being free.
The government has stated that it would be able to expand the testing system again if it required it in the future, for example if there was a new variant of concern that emerged it would be able to offer free tests to everyone again and it was prepared to do so.
Where Can I Buy Lateral Flow Tests Now?
You can now purchase lateral flow tests from a recognised government private provider. High street pharmacies are offering lateral flow tests to purchase or you can use an online sale provider to have them delivered to your house.
The average price is around £2 per test but the prices can fluctuate due to demand or supply.
Government guidance has stated in the past few weeks that people who feel as if they have symptoms of COVID-19 do not now need to isolate and there is no need for them to take a test.
They should rest until they feel better and avoid being in contact with others, especially those that are vulnerable.