How to order a free rapid Covid test and when are they available?

How to order a free rapid Covid test and when are they available?

April 5, 2021

RAPID testing has been hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as one way Brits will be able to resume "normal life" as Covid-19 restrictions start to ease up.

From Friday Brits will be able to receive two rapid tests a week – but how can you get your hands on them?

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At present, you are advised to get a coronavirus test if you have any of the three main symptoms defined by the NHS.

These are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell (anosmia).

If you have any of these symptoms you should get a test and isolate in order to stop the spread of the virus.

You are also urged to get a test if you have to leave your home for work and work in a profession which means you could be exposed to infections.

People who work in places such as care home and nurseries across the country have already been getting two tests a week in order to make sure they aren't bringing infections into the work place.

Testing is also already available in areas where surge testing has been deployed where variants such as the South African and Brazilian variant have been detected.

Under Mr Johnson's new testing blitz everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free rapid Covid test twice a week.

Rapid lateral flow tests detect cases quickly, meaning that people can isolate faster.


People will be able to collect or order batches of their free Covid tests whether they have symptoms or not.

The public will be able to order kits at home, get them through their workplaces, at schools, or via the network of testing centres which have been set up across the country.

A pharmacy collect service will also be launched. The kits will be available from Friday onwards with a fresh marketing campaign urging people to take part.

People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of 7 rapid tests to use twice a week at home.

Mr Johnson promised the kits would “stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy”.

He said that this, along with the vaccine programme being rolled out across the country – would help normality resume.


He added: "As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.

“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks."

You can order a free home test kit from the NHS website.

There are a number of testing sites across the UK which you can book.

You can also get tested in a NHS hospital, at a regional test centre in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, satellite centres, or at mobile testing units.

For more information about those sites, visit the government website.

The government advises to get a test done in the first five days of having symptoms.

So far in England over 100,000 businesses have registered their interest to provide rapid tests to their employees.

This has also been extended to companies with over ten workers where on-site testing is impossible.


Test twice a week, every week, using a rapid test when you have no symptoms.

Testing after vaccination

You should continue to use rapid tests even after vaccination because it is not yet known to what extent vaccination stops you from catching and passing on the virus – only that it is effective in stopping you from getting very ill.

What if I test positive with a rapid test?

You must self-isolate immediately to prevent further transmission, and register your result online at You may also need to take a further test – this will be sent to a lab and is the same one that people use if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

When not to use a rapid test

If you already have symptoms of Covid-19 such as a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss of sense of smell or taste, you should NOT use a rapid test. You will need to take a different type of test, which will be sent to a lab to be processed. This can be done at a walk-in or drive-through test site, or by ordering a home kit at


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night: “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.”

Extra test and trace rules will also be rolled out next week to crack down on potential outbreaks as the nation unlocks further.

The NHS Covid-19 app will be updated with everyone in a group required to check into venues or ­provide their details.

People who test positive will be able to share the cafes and pubs they have been to so they can alert them of a possible outbreak.

Customers will also be alerted, and advised to book tests, if they have been at a venue on the same day as others who get the virus.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at PHE and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace said that rapid testing helps PHE find cases that may not have been detected and helps break the chain of transmission.

She said: "These tests are effective in detecting people that are infectious and therefore most likely to transmit infection to others. They are another tool we now have to help maintain lower infection rates.

“I encourage everyone to take up the offer of these free rapid tests – they are quick and easy to carry out in your own home.”

Data from NHS Test and Trace shows that for for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result.

The tests can detect high levels of the virus and are able to find people who may not have symptoms but are likely to transmit the virus.

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