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Covid-19 testing

Information on changes to Covid-19 testing and how to stay safe.

Free testing for coronavirus (Covid-19) from the NHS has ended for most people in England. Free testing services have closed at:

  • pharmacies
  • test sites
  • community collection points such as libraries
  • schools, nurseries and universities

Advice on Covid-19 testing

The government recently set out its plans for Living with Covid-19. Most people in England are no longer advised to routinely test for Covid-19.  

For more information on who can still access free tests, and how to get them, please read more about the changes to covid-19 testing in England 

Please note, there is separate advice on testing for:  

Whilst most people will not require a test, there is new guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection (including Covid-19) and steps you can take to prevent infection.  

Who can get a Covid-19 test 

From 1 April 2022, free Covid-19 tests will continue to be available to people at higher risk of serious illness and in settings where there is a higher risk of infection spreading to vulnerable people.  

People who are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, and eligible for treatments, will be sent test kits to use from the government if they develop symptoms. 

Free tests will also be offered to people in NHS and social care settings as set out in national guidance. For more information on free coronavirus tests, and how to get them, please read more about the changes to covid-19 testing in England 

People without access to free test kits can choose to buy them from some pharmacies or retailers who offer them. We do not keep information on which pharmacies are offering this or how much they will cost. Generally, it may help to compare prices between different providers to find the best price available.  

What to do if you have symptoms and do not have access to tests 

New guidance has been published for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including Covid-19.  

Symptoms of a respiratory infection include:  

  • continuous cough 

  • high temperature, fever or chills 

  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell 

  • shortness of breath 

  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy 

  • muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise 

  • not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry 

  • headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual 

  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose 

  • diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick 

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until you no longer have a high temperature (if you had one) or until you no longer feel unwell. 

You should avoid close contact with anyone who you know is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if they are infected with Covid-19 and other respiratory infections. 

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature, and they are well enough to attend. 

If your symptoms get worse, or you are concerned about a child with symptoms, you should seek medical help and support. You can also visit www.111.nhs.uk or call 111 from a landline or mobile phone. 

Adults that test positive for coronavirus should stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 days. Children or young people should follow the same advice for at least 3 days. More information is available in the latest guidance on testing 

How to stay safe 

While all legal restrictions are now removed, and most testing reduced, the pandemic is not over. You should continue to follow the updated public health guidance to protect yourselves and others, particularly those who may become seriously ill if infected with Covid-19. 

The best way to do so is to get vaccinated and encourage all your loved ones to be vaccinated. Everyone aged 5 and older can get their first, second or booster dose of the vaccine at walk-in vaccination clinics and some local pharmacies in the borough. 

You can help prevent the spread by choosing to: 

  1. Get vaccinated

  1. Let fresh air in if meeting others indoors

  1. Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, clean your surroundings frequently 

  2. Wear a face covering or a face mask in crowded and enclosed spaces (unless exempt) 

Questions and Answers 

Below are some questions and answers that might help. If you have any other questions or concerns, contact us at staysafe@walthamforest.gov.uk 

 

Why are you ending free testing if Covid is still here? 

These decisions have been made nationally, with both funding for testing and ability of the local authority to obtain tests being withdrawn, making it unfeasible to continue any offer locally. 

Who is considered ‘vulnerable’ or ‘at risk’? 

The most vulnerable are those already identified at higher risk, due to having weaker immune systems, for instance.  

What do I do if I have Covid symptoms and would normally get tested? 

If you are feeling unwell, the current guidance is to stay at home. You should especially avoid contact with vulnerable or elderly people. 

When test sites are closed, where can I get tested in person? 

Unless you are in a particularly vulnerable group, or work in health and social care and have symptoms, you will no longer be able to access free testing. You may be able to purchase rapid LFDs from a private pharmacy, if you wish. 

Where can I buy test kits if I need them? How much will they be? 

If you are not in the vulnerable category and need to get test kits, you will have to purchase them from a private provider. We do not keep information on which pharmacies are offering this or how much they will cost. 

Can I get home test kits for my vulnerable parent/child for free? 

A testing offer will be made available for vulnerable residents. We are awaiting further guidance from central government. As soon as this is available, we will let vulnerable residents know how we can support them to access tests. 

Can I use the test kits that I still have? 

Yes, as long as they have not expired. Most kits will be usable for at least another year but please check your package for its expiry date. 

What will happen to all the test sites? 

The test sites will go back to their original use. The LFD test sites, run by the council, will do so immediately from 1 Apr. The PCR sites, run nationally and generally based in car parks, will return to normal use over the next few months, based on when the national team is able to work on them. 

What will happen to all the test kits you still have? 

Our small stock remaining will be reserved for use in outbreaks, or to provide to vulnerable people. 

Will testing come back if there is a new variant or increased Covid cases? 

It is possible that testing might return, most likely for a significant new variant, but this would be a decision taken nationally. We have contingency plans to provide any form of local testing offer if required.