Are you eligible for free COVID testing?
New guidance outlining free COVID-19 tests for specific groups, including care home residents and staff was published this week.
However, free testing for the general public ended from 1st April as part of the Living with COVID plan which last month set out the Government’s strategy to live with and manage the virus.
Under the plans set out, free symptomatic testing will be provided for:
- Patients in hospital, where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and to support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants.
- 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 some high-risk settings. For example, staff in adult social care services such as homecare organisations and care homes, and residents in residential settings and extra care and supported living services, NHS workers and those working and living in hospices, and prisons and places of detention (including immigration removal centres), where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks. People will also be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes and hospices.
- Asymptomatic lateral flow testing will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high.
Most visitors to social care settings, and visitors to the NHS, prisons or places of detention will no longer be required to take a test.
Although COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations have risen in recent weeks, the Government said over 55% of those in hospital that have tested positive are not there with COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis.
The Government’s reasoning behind the change in guidance is that free universal testing has come at a significant cost to the taxpayer, with the testing, tracing and isolation budget costing over £15.7bn in 2021 to 2022 – something that the Government says was necessary due to the severe risk posed by COVID-19 when the population did not have a high level of protection.
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