Covid: How to get lateral flow tests, how much do they cost and who can get them for free?

·4 min read
A Covid-19 Lateral Flow (LFT) self-test kit, containing a SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (AFP via Getty Images)
A Covid-19 Lateral Flow (LFT) self-test kit, containing a SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (AFP via Getty Images)

Free lateral flow tests have been scrapped for the general public, while certain high-risk groups will still have access.

This follows the “Living with Covid” strategy Boris Johnson announced in February that has ended mandatory self-isolation, and travel restrictions – and since Friday 1 April, free lateral flow testing for the majority of UK residents.

However, there has recently been a steep rise in Covid cases across the UK following a new Omicron sub-variant called BA.5.

Experts have not yet discovered whether the mutant virus is more dangerous, but the BA.4 and BA.5 strains have been designated as variants of concern in the UK on May 6, 2022, by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Current guidance advises those with Covid-19 symptoms to stay at home and “avoid contact with other people” for a recommended five days.

The Health Secretary said: “Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus.

“Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.”

As Covid case numbers exceed 280,000, many people will be wondering how they can get a lateral flow test. Find out everything you need to know below.

When did free Covid tests end?

Free lateral flow tests were provided to the general public until Friday, April 1.

Ordering tests from the government website included answering questions on whether you had symptoms.

If answered no, a message stated that tests are “most needed” for those at higher risk.

When could free Covid tests come back for the wider population?

Free testing could be reinstated if a dangerous new variant arises, so the government are storing lateral flow tests as a pre-emptive measure.

Lateral flow tests will remain free in Wales until July 31, as health authorities estimate one in 45 people have Covid.

Who can still get free lateral flow Covid tests?

Most people in England can’t currently get a lateral flow test for free, although certain groups are still eligible.

The groups of people who may be able to get LFTs for free include the following:

  • People who are eligible for Covid treatments

  • People who are being admitted to hospital

  • People who work in the NHS or adult social care

You are eligible for free tests if you work in the NHS or adult social care and you’re:

  • NHS patient-facing staff

  • staff who deliver NHS services through an independent healthcare provider, and have direct contact with NHS patients

  • a social worker

  • a personal assistant

  • a Shared Lives carer

  • a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector

Additionally, people can also get a free LFT if their GP or a health professional has asked them to get tested.

There are currently no plans to reintroduce free Covid testing for the general public by the government despite cases rising and being close to record highs again.

How can I get a lateral flow test now?

People who are not eligible for lateral flow tests can buy them at pharmacies and certain retailers. It’s possible to buy LFTs both online and in person.

What do I do after taking a lateral flow test?

If you were eligible for a free lateral flow test through the government, you can report your result online.

However, if you paid for your test, you cannot report your result through the government website.

If you test positive for Covid, the NHS advises that you “should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day you took the test.”

How much will lateral flow tests cost?

Lateral flow tests are much cheaper than PCRs.

High street options include Boots with a single test for £2.50, £12 for a pack of five or £17 for four with an option to send results to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Elsewhere, Superdrug is selling Healgen for just £1.99. Both stores offer Flowflex multipacks for just under £10.

Government-listed provider Randox offers packs of three tests for £6 and packs of 10 tests for £17.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting