Who can still get free Covid tests across the UK and can I buy LFTs?

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A woman swabs her throat while looking at her phone screenImage source, Getty Images

Most people in England and Scotland can no longer get free PCR or lateral flow tests (LFTs).

A few groups are still entitled to free Covid tests, including the most vulnerable, as well as frontline NHS staff.

Some limited free testing for the public will continue in Wales and Northern Ireland until the end of June.

How has testing changed in England?

Most people with symptoms are no longer entitled to free PCR tests either.

  • 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
  • hospital patients who are discharged to care homes or hospices

If you still qualify, you may be able to order LFTs online (if you have an NHS login), or by calling 119.

People who are eligible for community Covid drug treatments because they're at higher risk if they catch Covid are being sent LFTs to keep at home in case they develop symptoms.

The government says it will be able to expand the testing system again in the future if necessary, such as if a new variant of concern emerges.

You may still need to test before or after travelling abroad. You must buy private tests for this - you can't use free NHS tests.

Can I buy lateral flow tests now?

Yes. High street pharmacies charge about £2 per test.

However, you cannot report the result of a privately-bought LFT on the government website.

Image source, Getty Images

How is testing changing in Scotland?

People with symptoms in Scotland are no longer asked to take a PCR test and self isolate - instead they are advised to stay at home while they are unwell or have a fever.

Testing for the general population has ended, apart from certain groups including health and social workers, hospital or care home visitors, hospital patients and unpaid carers.

How is testing changing in Wales?

  • PCR tests won't be freely available
  • free LFTs will be available for people with symptoms
  • people should isolate if positive
  • contact tracing will continue

After then, free LFTs won't be available, contact tracing and self-isolation support payments will end, and self-isolation guidance will be updated to advise ill people to stay at home.

What about testing in Northern Ireland?

  • most people with symptoms will be asked to take an LFT instead - although this requirement will be removed before the end of June
  • routine testing in special schools is still taking place and may continue until the end of June
  • contact tracing will be phased out by the end of June
  • routine testing for health and social care staff continues, subject to review
  • anyone who has to test for clinical reasons or to receive treatment still has access to PCRs or LFTs as required