From tomorrow, there will be changes to the availability of COVID-19 lateral flow tests for people with symptoms of COVID-19 and for those without symptoms.
People with symptoms of COVID-19
It is important to continue testing people with symptoms of COVID-19 in high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly among people who may be at higher risk of serious illness. It is important to ensure that COVID-19 is detected as quickly as possible in these situations to help minimise outbreaks to protect people who are most vulnerable.
Free tests for people who have COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be provided to the following groups, mostly through the existing means of ordering tests:
- NHS patients in hospital, who will be tested via the established NHS testing programme
- People at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and those eligible for COVID-19 antiviral and other treatments. People in this group will be contacted directly by the NHS and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests
- NHS staff and staff working in NHS-funded independent healthcare provision
- Adult social care staff in care homes, home care organisations, extra care and supported living settings and adult day care centres. Residents in care homes and extra care and supported living settings
- Adult social care workers, personal assistants, Shared Lives carers and CQC inspectors
- Staff and patients in hospices
- Staff and detainees in prisons and other places of detention
- Staff and detainees in immigration removal centres
- Staff and users of high-risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.
People without symptoms of COVID-19
During periods of high infection rates, testing people without symptoms can help to reduce risk. Testing will continue to be provided for:
- Adult social care staff and a small number of visitors providing personal care
- Hospice staff
- Patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-funded independent healthcare provision
- Some staff in prisons and other places of detention, and some refuges and shelters
- Care home outbreak testing for all staff and residents will also continue all year.
Full guidance will be published shortly setting out how testing will change to reflect the Living with COVID-19 strategy, which will include specific guidance for high-risk settings.
Visitors to high-risk settings
Most visitors to adult social care settings, the NHS, hospices, prisons or places of detention will no longer require a test.
Tests will continue to be provided to a small number of visitors to care homes and hospices who will be providing personal care.
Visits by people with symptoms may still be allowed in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life visits. Please contact someone responsible at the setting prior to visiting in these circumstances.
If you wish to test yourself, lateral flow tests will continue to be available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets, including online.
It is vital that everyone continues to follow the simple steps to keep themselves and others safe.
Changes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set out their own plans, as follows:
The government will continue to work together with our partners to keep all of these measures under review.
If you do not fall into the categories listed here but you wish to test yourself for COVID-19, lateral flow tests will continue to be available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets, including online.
If you are concerned by these changes and you are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, please talk to you GP of healthcare team to see if you qualify for free COVID-19 tests. Alternatively, please email us if you have some questions.
Read the government’s statement here