Covid 19: Where to buy lateral flow tests, how much they cost, and where to get them for free

Covid-19 hospital admission rates in England  (Danny Lawson / PA)
Covid-19 hospital admission rates in England (Danny Lawson / PA)

The UK has seen a rise in Covid cases, with a new variant spreading rapidly.

The UKHSA's statistics showed in mid-November that the new JN.1 variant represented around eight per cent of cases in England and is the fastest growing variant in the past eight months.

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 increased slightly to 6.5 per week in the last week of November, compared to 5.4 per cent in the previous week.

Covid-19 hospitalisations also increased slightly to 2.9 per 100,000 population, compared to 2.58 in the previous week, with the highest levels in London, especially Barnet and Greenwich.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is currently monitoring the variant, but it has not yet been designated as a Variant of Concern (VOC).

As of December 4, there have been 302 recorded JN.1 cases in the UK.

If you’re worried you’ve been struck down with the virus, you might be wondering how to get your hands on a lateral-flow test.

How can I get a lateral-flow test?

People who are not eligible for lateral-flow tests can buy them at pharmacies and certain retailers. It’s possible to buy LFTs both online and in person.

What do I do after taking a lateral-flow test?

If you were eligible for a free lateral-flow test through the government, you can report your result online.

However, if you paid for your test, you cannot report your result through the government website.

If you test positive for Covid, the NHS advises that you “should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day you took the test”.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 is advised to stay at home (Peter Byrne / PA Wire)
Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 is advised to stay at home (Peter Byrne / PA Wire)

How much do lateral-flow tests cost?

Lateral-flow tests are much cheaper than PCRs.

High-street options include Boots with a single test for £2.50, £12 for a pack of five, or £17 for four, with an option to send results to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Elsewhere, Superdrug is selling Healgen for just £1.99. Both stores offer Flowflex multipacks for just under £10.

Government-listed provider Randox offers packs of three tests for £6 and packs of 10 tests for £17.

When did free Covid tests end?

Free lateral-flow tests were provided to the public until Friday, April 1 2022.

Ordering tests from the government website included answering questions on whether you had symptoms.

If answered no, a message stated that tests are “most needed” for those at higher risk.

When could free Covid tests come back for the wider population?

Free testing could be reinstated if a dangerous new variant arises, so the Government is storing lateral-flow tests as a pre-emptive measure.

Lateral-flow tests remained free in Wales until July 31 last year but now all must pay for the tests should they need unless they hit a certain criteria.

The new Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins (Victoria Jones / PA)
The new Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins (Victoria Jones / PA)

Who can still get free lateral-flow Covid tests?

Currently, most people in England can’t get a lateral-flow test for free, although certain groups are still eligible.

The groups of people who may be able to get LFTs for free include the following:

  • People who are eligible for Covid treatment

  • People in care homes, refuges, and prisons

  • People who are being admitted to hospital

  • People who work in the NHS or adult social care

You are eligible for free tests if you work in the NHS or adult social care and you’re:

  • NHS patient-facing staff

  • staff who deliver NHS services through an independent healthcare provider, and have direct contact with NHS patients

  • a social worker

  • a personal assistant

  • a Shared Lives carer

  • a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector

Additionally, people can also get a free LFT if their GP or a health professional has asked them to get tested.

There are currently no plans to reintroduce free Covid testing for the general public by the Government, despite cases rising.