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You DON’T have to take a Covid test if you’re ill – but anyone who feels unwell with tell-tale virus symptoms will be advised to keep at home from Friday

  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid released guidance under plans to ‘live with’ Covid
  • People with symptoms are urged to wear a mask, and avoid close contact
  • But requirement for them to take a Covid test will be dropped from Friday

Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured yesterday by No10) has changed Covid rules

Workers with Covid symptoms will no longer need to take a test from Friday as England tries to get back to normal after the pandemic.

Anyone who feels unwell with symptoms such as a high temperature and a cough will be advised to stay at home.

The guidance, issued by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, is part of the Government’s plan to treat Covid like other respiratory illnesses.

People with symptoms and those who have tested positive are urged to wear a mask, avoid close contact with vulnerable people and swerve crowded areas if they must leave home. 

But hospitals and care home patients and staff will still be able to request free Covid tests, as will those at risk of serious illness. Others must pay.

Most visitors to care homes, abilify maoi hospitals and prisons will no longer have to take a test.

And free parking for NHS staff, introduced during the pandemic, is coming to an end tomorrow.

Mr Javid said: ‘Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus.

Free lateral flow tests will be scrapped for everyone except NHS workers, care home staff and vulnerable patients from Friday in England.

It will only continue in settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high. 

FREE SYMPTOMATIC TESTING WILL STILL BE GIVEN TO:   

  • 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 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill;
  • People living or working in some high-risk settings. For example, staff in adult social care services such as homecare organisations and care homes.

‘We have made enormous progress but will keep the ability to respond to future threats including potential variants.

‘Vaccines remain our best defence and we are now offering spring boosters to the elderly, care home residents and the most vulnerable.’

Although coronavirus infections have risen in recent weeks, more than 55 per cent of hospital patients who have tested positive do not have Covid as their primary diagnosis.

The Test and Trace programme cost taxpayers more than £15.7billion in 2021-22.

The guidance, which comes into effect on April 1, advises people with symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature, or those who feel unwell, to stay at home and avoid contact with others until they feel better and their temperature returns to normal.

Anyone with a positive Covid test result will be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with others for five days when they are most infectious.

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people where possible.

They can return to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature and are well enough.

Free symptomatic testing will be provided for patients in hospital, where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatment, as well as supporting clinical surveillance for new variants.

Testing will also be available for people who are eligible for community Covid treatments because they are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill.

This group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home if they have symptoms and told how to reorder tests.

Those living or working in high-risk settings including care homes, hospices and prisons will receive free tests.

And people will be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes, hospices, shelters and refuges.

‘Vaccines remain our best defence’

UK’s lateral flow shortage sees sales soar FIVE-FOLD in a week at High St pharmacists as Brits scramble to get free tests before they’re scrapped on Friday… so how much WILL chains sell them for?

Britain’s scramble for the last remaining free supplies of lateral flow tests has seen sales of the rapid devices soar five-fold in a week at High Street pharmacies.

LloydsPharmacy is already selling the Covid tests, despite free ones being available on the Government’s website until Friday.

But scores of Britons have complained about being unable to get hold of any kits through the official ordering channel over the past fortnight.

Struggles accessing the devices — which formed a major part of the UK’s Covid-fighting strategy — have allowed major retailers to cash in. 

LloydsPharmacy told MailOnline sales in the week ending March 28 were 400 per cent up on the previous seven-day spell. 

It also announced it was slashing the price of lateral flows, reducing the price of a pack of five rapid swabs by 20p to £9.29 — or £1.86 each — making it the cheapest on the market.

A single test sold on its own from the company will cost people £1.89, compared to £1.99 at rival Superdrug and £2 at Boots. 

Meanwhile Boots is selling its five-packs for £9.80 and Superdrug is offering them for £9.79.

High street chains have been undercutting each other since February 23, just days after Boris Johnson announced mass public lateral flows would be abandoned on April 1.  

Rapid tests will be rationed to hospital and care home patients and staff as part of the final stage of No10’s living with Covid strategy. 

Experts have repeatedly described the move to end free testing for those no longer qualifying for them as ‘worrying’ amid rising cases.

Lateral flow tests will be rationed to the elderly and vulnerable people as part of the final stage of No10’s living with Covid strategy — leading to fears people have been stockpiling the remainder of the free swabs in the meantime. Users have been unable to order tests on the Government’s site today

High street pharmacists today continued their war of prices ahead of free lateral tests being scrapped from next week. Graphic shows: Different price options at Boots, Superdrug and LloydsPharmacy

LloydsPharmacy dropped its price for a pack of five rapid tests to £9.29 — costing £1.86 each. At the end of February, they were priced at £9.49 for the pack

Ahead of the move, a LloydsPharmacy spokesperson told MailOnline the company would be lowering its price for lateral flows slightly on previous plans.

They said: ‘From April 1 in line with the latest Government changes, lateral flow tests are no longer free across the UK. 

‘LloydsPharmacy will continue to help keep the public safe and at the moment we offer lateral flow test kits in a selection of quantities to suit customer needs.

‘This includes single tests for just £1.89 or up to a pack of five for just £9.29 — £1.86 per test — available in store and online now at LloydsPharmacy.com.  

‘You can find further information about our range of tests on our website, and up-to-date coronavirus information on the coronavirus page on the Government website.’  

Boots has been offering its tests since the end of last month and Superdrug is also currently selling its tests online. 

When the Omicron wave was collapsing in February, Boris Johnson announced that free testing would be scrapped from April.

The announcement was widely seen as a way to appease Tory backbenchers who at the time were threatening to hand in letters of no confidence in the PM following the Partygate scandal.

But in recent weeks the UK has seen a resurgence in Covid infections and hospital admissions, driven by the even more infectious BA.2 variant, which has led many experts to call for free tests to stay.

SAGE has previously warned ending the scheme, which cost up to £2bn a month, would leave the country in the dark to a fresh wave and said poor people will be hit hardest.  

Experts told said pushing through with the move could leave some of the most vulnerable people in society at risk.

Professor Denis Kinane, an immunologist and founding scientist at Cignpost Diagnostics, said: ‘I am concerned that the decision to end free tests from April 1 could leave some vulnerable groups at risk, particularly the immuno-suppressed. 

‘This is worrying with the recent spike in case numbers and hospital admissions.’

Covid cases have been on the rise since the start of the month, following all restrictions being eased on Freedom Day on February 24.

Hospital admissions have also been increasing, jumping 16 per cent in a week to 2,380 on Tuesday, the latest date data is available for.

It was the highest daily total since the peak of the Omicron wave in January, with 2,386 recorded on January 10.

People trying to get tests have reported struggling to access them for weeks as the Government started rationing the kits ahead of the cut-off date amid fears people would stockpile them. 

Professor Kinane added: ‘Recent stories about shortages of lateral flow tests shows demonstrate that large numbers of people still want to get tested to reassure themselves or protect their families.

‘Alongside this, the testing played a vital role in preventing transmission for those working in settings where they would come into contact with a large number of people. 

‘Many sectors will be wondering if this will prevent more people from safely returning to their place of work as we begin to live with the virus.’  

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