From Friday, April 1 most people will be charged to get Covid tests under new plans put forward by ministers. 

While free universal testing will end, some people will be eligible for free tests after Friday.

Health leaders have warned that the ending of free tests could mean people stop testing themselves for coronavirus, leading to high levels of the virus spreading. 

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders will be relieved that the Government has seen sense and confirmed at the 11th hour that NHS staff in patient-facing roles will continue to have access to free testing against Covid-19. This is a victory for common sense.

“As rates of coronavirus and hospital admissions continue to be high and with one in 16 people in England believed to have the virus currently, stripping this access from those who care for some of the most vulnerable in our society would have been a massive error.”

Patricia Marquis, director for England for the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Nursing staff require access to free testing because many work in close proximity with clinically vulnerable people and we need to prevent hospitals and other care settings from becoming a place where Covid-19 spreads easily.

“Tight NHS and care budgets should not be asked to cover these costs – the Government must continue to show its support for healthcare workers.”

Who will get free Covid tests from Friday in England? 

  • Hospital patients who have symptoms of Covid. These patients will be given lab tests in hospitals where it is required for their care or to support ongoing surveillance of the virus.
  • People who are at risk of severe Covid-19 who have symptoms. These people might be eligible for Covid-19 treatments which help alleviate their symptoms. People in this group will be sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms.
  • Some workers or residents of “high risk settings” who have symptoms. This includes some care home and hospice staff and residents, NHS workers and prison staff. People will also be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes, hospices, homelessness settings and domestic abuse refuges.
  • Some NHS and social care staff will continue to get free tests when they don’t have symptoms when there are high rates of infection in the community.