Under new guidance in place from April 1, most members of the public in England will not be able to get a free Covid test unless under certain circumstances
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Free Covid testing in England has been scrapped from April 1 under new government guidance.
It means that people will no longer be able to order free Covid testing equipment to find out if they have symptoms.
Lateral flow tests (LFTs) will now cost people £2 or £2.50 per test from April 1, based on figures from Tesco and Boots respectively.
The Scottish National Party ( SNP ) also said that free tests in Scotland will be scrapped from the end of April due to what it claims is a lack of funds from Westminster.
The government estimated £15.7 billion was spent on the test, tracing and isolation budget from 2021 to 2022.
It hopes that an emphasis on the vaccine programme and the continued rollout of the booster programme will help to keep cases down.
However, there remains some confusion about access to different types of tests in England despite the new guidance, due to different rules applying to different types of tests.
Despite the changes, both PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) tests and LFTs remain free to people only in very specific circumstances.
Where can I get free LFTs?
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Certain members of the public can continue to get free LFTs, but they will no longer be easily accessed by everyone for free.
Tesco, Boots and Superdrug are already selling individual tests or packs of five.
- NHS patients in hospital
- Those eligible for Covid-19 antiviral and other treatments, who will be sent a pack of tests and can request replacements if they need them
- NHS staff and staff working in NHS-funded independent healthcare can continue to order LFTs through the test ordering portal
- Adult social care social workers, personal assistants, Shared Lives carers and CQC inspector can continue to order LFTs through the test ordering portal
- Staff and patients in hospices will be supplied by the hospice
- Detainees and prison staff will be supplied by the prison
- Immigration removal centres will be supplied tests for staff and detainees
- Users and staff of high-risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings
Where can I get free PCR tests?
Under the new guidance, PCR tests are being given out to people to people with symptoms if they are in hospital.
The government explained in the guidance that the test would be provided for patients already in hospital and “where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and to support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants”.
PCR tests are sent to a lab, rather than relying on an at-home kit.
This is done for a more accurate result, although as NHS Wales explained: “Scientific advice has indicated that by testing more frequently with [LFTs], their accuracy is on a par with RT-PCR tests and this is why we repeat the tests on a twice-weekly basis.”