Where can I get Covid tests near me? How much they cost - and who can still get them for free

The BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants are driving Covid infections across the UK

Covid infections are on the rise again in the UK, with health experts warning the country has entered its fifth wave.

The newest BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants are thought to be driving the recent surge in cases, although there is “currently no evidence” the strains cause more serious symptoms.

Covid tests are no longer free for most people (Composite: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld)

The rate of reinfection from these variants is also increasing across all age groups, although infections are still below the record 4.9 million seen at the peak of the Omicron BA.2 wave at the end of March this year.

Dr Stephen Griffin of the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, said: “The rate of reinfection with these variants is also dramatically increased and prevalence is increasing across all ages.

“This highlights the ability of these viruses to evade antibody immunity and the rapidity with which they are causing waves across the globe is concerning.

“Our population immunity and the properties of the virus are continuously changing. Comparisons to the pre-vaccine era are of course reassuring, but the idea that this race has been run to the best of our ability is nonsense.”

If you think you might have Covid, here’s what you need to know about testing across the UK.

Where can I get a Covid test?

Covid tests are no longer free for most people, but rapid lateral flow tests are available to buy from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online.

High street pharmacies are charging around £2 per test and the government website includes a list of private test providers.

Covid tests are no longer free for most people (Photo: Getty Images)

Boots is selling individual tests online for £2 each, or £2.95 for a pack of two, although customers will not be provided with a certificate so the result will not be suitable for travelling abroad.

A verified lateral flow test with certificate is priced at £14.99, or £17 for a pack of four.

Who can still get Covid tests for free?

Most people in England and Scotland can no longer get free PCR or lateral flow tests, but a few groups of people are still entitled, including the most vulnerable and frontline NHS staff.

In England, you can still get lateral flow tests for free from the NHS if:

  • you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for Covid treatments
  • you are going into hospital
  • you work in the NHS or in adult social care

You can also get free NHS tests if you work in care homes, domiciliary care, extra care and supported living services, adult day care centres or hospices. If you work in the NHS or in adult social care, you are eligible for free tests if you are:

  • 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

NHS kits can be sent to your home for free if you are eligible and can be ordered via the government website, or by calling 119.

In Scotland, you can you can only get free rapid lateral flow tests if you are:

  • eligible for Covid treatments
  • visiting a care home or hospital
  • an unpaid carer

Some limited free testing is still available for the general public in Wales to those who are showing Covid symptoms. This includes a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed that access to free lateral flow tests will be extended in Wales until 31 July 2022. Access was originally meant to end at the end of June.

The following testing rules also continue to be in place:

  • Lateral flow and PCR testing for those eligible for Covid treatments.
  • PCR testing for Covid and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
  • PCR and lateral flow testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised, including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays.
  • Lateral flow testing for symptomatic health and social care staff
  • Twice weekly lateral flow testing for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff

In Northern Ireland, it is no longer recommended that you take a lateral flow test if you do not have Covid symptoms.

If you do not have symptoms, you can only order lateral flow tests if:

  • you may be eligible for Covid treatments and need lateral flow tests in case you become symptomatic
  • you are a carer who provides close personal care for someone who is at higher risk if they contract Covid
  • you are working or visiting high risk or vulnerable settings, such as care homes and hospital environments 
  • your GP or a healthcare professional asks you to take a test
  • you have Covid and want to check if your test result is still positive after day five