All you need to know about changes to Covid-19 testing in England

Here's how testing for Covid-19 will be changing in the UK from April 1

Free Covid-19 testing for the general public is set to end today (April 1), meaning most UK residents will no longer be afforded free PCR or lateral flow tests.

A number of high-risk groups will still have access to free tests, however.

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This group includes frontline NHS staff and patients, as well as those in other high-risk settings like care homes, domestic abuse refuses, prisons and immigration removal centres. People at risk of serious-illness from Covid-19, and eligible for treatment, will also continue to receive free tests if they develop symptoms.

Covid-19

Most visitors to the high-risk settings listed above will no longer need to provide proof of a test in order to complete their visit, and guests with symptoms may be allowed in under exceptional circumstances.

Those wishing to test themselves can still buy lateral flow tests online or from a pharmacy.

The changes come as part of the government's Living with Covid Plan, which was announced last month, and lays out the government's strategy for managing the virus in the near-future.

One reason given for the cancellation of free tests was the cost. A government press release explained that 'free universal testing has come at significant cost to the taxpayer'. Last year, the press release claims, the government spent more than 15.7 billion on providing free tests.

"Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme and access to antivirals, alongside natural immunity and increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk, the population now has much stronger protection against COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic," it said.

This coincides with a rise in national Covid-19 infection and hospitalisation rates over the last few weeks, but a government spokesperson has suggested that over 55 per cent of hospital patients who tested positive for the virus were not there with Covid-19 as their primary diagnosis.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: "Thanks to our plan to tackle COVID we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus. We have made enormous progress but will keep the ability to respond to future threats including potential variants.

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."

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