What is changing?
Up until now testing yourself for COVID-19 has been free in England, regardless of whether you had symptoms or not. From the 1st April the general public in England will now have to pay for COVID-19 tests. However, there are some groups who will still have access to free testing as outlined in this blog.
Changes are also planned elsewhere, but not until later in April in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales is expected to keep testing free until July. This blog will be updated as more information comes through.
Who can now get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms?
From 1st April in England, free symptomatic testing will be available for:
- Patients in hospital, where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and to support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants;
- People who are eligible for community COVID-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
Nb. You can find out who is on the eligibility list for COVID-19 antiviral treatments here on page 8. Please note that receiving antiviral treatments is not a guarantee based solely on your eligibility, you will also receive a clinical assessment and must be symptomatic with COVID-19 and showing no signs of clinical recovery; and
- People living or working in some high-risk settings. For example, staff and residents in adult social care services such as care homes and supported living services, NHS workers and those working and living in hospices, prisons and places of detention (including immigration removal centres). People will also be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes, hospices, homelessness settings and domestic abuse refuges.
I’m eligible for symptomatic tests, how do I get them?
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
Who can now get a free test if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms?
Asymptomatic lateral flow testing will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high. This includes patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-commissioned Independent Healthcare Providers, staff in hospices and adult social care services, a small number of care home visitors who provide personal care, staff in some prisons and places of detention and in high risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.
Can my friends and family get free tests to protect me?
Unfortunately household contacts, family and friends of the vulnerable have not been granted access to free COVID-19 tests after the 1st April and will now need to pay for tests.
Who can pay for tests and where can you buy them from?
Anyone can pay for COVID-19 tests after the 1st April. To ensure you purchase tests from a reputable source, the Government has compiled an approved list of lateral flow and PCR test providers (e.g., Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy) which you can find here.
What if we need to restart free testing in the future?
The Government has made plans for free testing provisions to be reintroduced for the public if necessary, such as if a new variant of concern emerges. Plans include the stockpiling of lateral flow tests so they can be made freely available to all as quickly as possible if needed in future.