Government sets out next steps for living with COVID


New guidance outlines free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups once free testing for the general public ends on 1 April.

  • Free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff once the universal testing offer ends on 1 April and next steps for adult social care set out
  • Plans in place to enable rapid testing response should a new health threat emerge, such as a new variant of concern emerge


Under the plans set out today free symptomatic testing will be provided for:

  • 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-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. People in this group will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests
  • people living or working in some high-risk settings. For example, staff in adult social care services such as homecare organisations and care homes, and residents in care homes and extra care and supported living services, NHS workers and those working and living in hospices, and prisons and places of detention (including immigration removal centres), where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks. People will also be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes and hospices

Asymptomatic lateral flow testing will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high. This includes:

  • patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-commissioned independent healthcare providers
  • staff in hospices and adult social care services, such as homecare organisations and care homes
  • a small number of care home visitors who provide personal care
  • staff in some prisons and places of detention and in high-risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings

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