Wednesday, 9 March 2022

When will free Covid tests end in England?

Image source, Getty Images

Free Covid tests will soon no longer be available for most people in England.

The change is part of the government’s “Living with Covid” plan.

How is testing changing in England?

Free lateral flow tests (LFTs) won’t be available after 1 April, except for the over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems.

Everyone else will have to buy tests.

The number of free NHS tests distributed each day in England has been capped “to manage demand”.

People without symptoms can now only order one pack of seven LFTs every three days – previously it was one per day.

Free PCR tests won’t be available to people with Covid symptoms from April either, except for a small number of at-risk groups, with details to be announced.

Free testing will remain for social care workers with Covid symptoms and NHS staff but these may not be funded separately.

What about testing in the rest of the UK?

The testing system is UK-wide, and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments all criticised England’s announcement.

PCR tests won’t be freely available
LFTs will be available online for free – but only 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 if possible.

In Scotland, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said that free Covid testing will continue in some form beyond April, with more details due this month.

How do I currently get a test?

You can also collect LFTs from pharmacies, vaccination hubs and test centres, but should register online to get a “collection code” first.

You should report all LFT results online, or by calling 119.

Image source, Getty Images

People in England don’t need to self-isolate or take daily tests after contact with someone with Covid, even if they aren’t fully vaccinated. Routine contact tracing has also ended.

Across the rest of the UK, if you are fully vaccinated (two doses – three in Scotland), you don’t have to self-isolate, but should take daily LFTs for seven days (or for 10 days after your last contact, if this is earlier).

If any of the LFTs are positive, you must self-isolate from the date of the test.

Close contacts of positive cases who are not fully vaccinated still have to self-isolate for the full 10 days. In Scotland, they should take one PCR test and continue isolating even if the result is negative.

In Wales, unvaccinated contacts are advised to take LFTs on days two and eight, even if they have no symptoms. Anyone who develops symptoms should take a PCR test.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption,
Lateral flow test kit of parts

Who else needs to test?

Staff and students in most education and childcare settings in England no longer have to test twice-weekly. Arrangements for NHS staff will be confirmed in March.

In the rest of the UK, NHS and education staff are still asked to test twice a week. Secondary pupils should test twice a week during term time (three times a week in Wales).

Scotland recommends that everyone should still test at least twice a week, especially before going to a crowded place or mixing with someone who is vulnerable.

You may need to still test before or after travelling abroad. You must buy private tests for this – you cannot use free NHS tests.

How do the tests work?

LFTs and PCR tests do different things:

LFTs pick up the most infectious people by detecting material from the surface proteins of the virus
PCRs detect genetic material of the virus which can be present in the body for several weeks after somebody is actually capable of passing it on

Both tests involve swabbing your nose and/or throat. LFTs can be done at home, and show results in 20 to 30 minutes.

PCR test swabs must be sent to a lab for analysis, with results provided in 24 to 48 hours, although it can take longer to confirm a particular variant.

Being vaccinated against Covid cannot cause you to test positive on either an LFT or PCR test.

The post When will free Covid tests end in England? first appeared on World News Guru.

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