Free rapid Covid tests offered to everyone in England twice weekly - how it will work

By Claire Schofield
Monday, 5th April 2021, 6:00 am
People will be able to get a test via a home ordering service, workplace, or school testing programme (Photo: Getty Images)
People will be able to get a test via a home ordering service, workplace, or school testing programme (Photo: Getty Images)

Free rapid Covid-19 test will be offered to everyone in England twice a week from Friday (9 April), the government has announced.

The lateral flow tests can return results within 30 minutes and will be made available to anyone, regardless of whether they have coronavirus symptoms.

More than 120,000 positive cases have already been identified through the use of lateral flow testing.

Wider rollout to control variants

The wider rollout is intended to help the government identify and more quickly control the emergence of new coronavirus variants, particularly as lockdown restrictions in England are now gradually starting to ease.

It comes ahead of the reopening of non-essential, indoor leisure facilities and outdoor hospitality, including pub beer gardens, from 12 April.

So far, rapid tests have primarily been offered to those deemed most at-risk, along with those who are unable to work from home, including frontline NHS workers.

From Friday (9 April), people in England will be able to get a test via a home ordering service, workplace, or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.

A new “pharmacy collect” service is also being launched to provide additional access to regular testing.

Those aged 18 and over without coronavirus symptoms will be able to use the service by visiting a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of seven rapid tests to use twice a week at home.

Stopping Covid outbreaks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the rollout of the rapid tests will help to stop coronavirus outbreaks “in their tracks”, and ensure the progress made on reducing infection rates is “not wasted”.

He said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our road map to cautiously easing restrictions under way, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.”

The NHS Covid-19 app is also due to be updated from 8 April, with everyone in a group now required to check-in when entering a hospitality venue, rather than just one person.

The app will also require users who test positive to share their venue history in a “privacy-protecting way” via the program, the government has said.

Anyone who has been at a venue on the same day as several others who have since tested positive for Covid-19 will receive an alert advising them to book a test immediately, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Around one in three people who have Covid-19 show no symptoms, and as we reopen society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks.

“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.

“The British public have shown over the last year that they quickly adapt and always do what is right in the interest of public health, and I know they will do their bit by getting tested regularly in the months ahead.”