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How to get Lateral Flow Tests

As part of the government’s next steps for living with Covid plan, from 1 April, people living in England now have to pay for a lateral flow or PCR test unless you fulfil certain criteria. According to the government, the new strategy will allow us to ‘to begin to manage the virus-like other respiratory infections’, particularly as the vaccine provides much stronger protection against Covid-19.

How do I get a free lateral flow test?

If you live in England and have Covid symptoms, you’ll only be able to get a free test if you come under the following groups:

  • A patient in hospital, where a PCR test is required for your care
  • People who are eligible for community Covid-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19. People in this group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests.
  • People living or working in high-risk settings, such as care homes, prisons and hospices where staff will be able to test regularly even if they don’t have symptoms.

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

Nine new Covid symptoms added to the official NHS list
As the provision of free Covid testing ends, the official list of symptoms has been expanded. In addition to the existing symptoms of a high temperature, a new and persistent cough, and anosmia, there is now also: shortness of breath feeling tired or exhausted an aching body a headache a sore throat a blocked or runny nose loss of appetite diarrhoea feeling sick or being sick.

What to do if you have symptoms

If you have Covid symptoms, such as a high temperature, the advice from 1 April is to stay at home and avoid contact with others. If you have Covid-19, you can pass on the virus to other people for up to 10 days from when your infection starts. Many people will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days.

You should:

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days
  • avoiding meeting people at higher risk from Covid-19 for 10 days, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a Covid-19 vaccine

This starts from the day after you did the test. Further information is available on the NHS website.

Once you feel well enough and your high temperature has gone, it’s advised you can then resume normal activities. Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people where possible. Once their high temperature has gone and they feel well enough, they can return to school.

Where can I get LFT from?
The availability of free lateral flow tests for most people has now ended and can be bought for around £1.99 (each) from pharmacies including Boots and Superdrug. The government has provided a list of approved lateral flow and PCR test providers, should you need to buy a test, the following are in the West Midlands region:

How do I get a Covid-19 vaccination?
The spring booster vaccine has started to roll out to care home residents, people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed aged 12 and over. The JCVI has advised a spring jab should be offered to those most vulnerable to Covid-19 as a precautionary measure.

If you are eligible and it’s been around six months since your last vaccine, the NHS will contact you and invite you for your vaccination. It’s not too late if you haven’t had a first or second vaccination, use the NHS National Booking Service to make an appointment or go to a walk-in vaccination site.