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Where to get a Covid test from – and the latest symptoms to spot

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Free rapid lateral flow tests were available in the UK during the height of the pandemic, but since September 2021, only certain people have been entitled to them.

You may still be able to get a free test if you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatment or you work in healthcare or in a hospice.

While Covid testing is no longer mandatory, with rising cases and new variants circulating, testing could be one method to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr William Wong, a Consultant General Practitioner at Fitzrovia Medical Clinic, advised: “Covid tests can be obtained from some pharmacies and shops, both in-store and online.

“If you are in England and are eligible for a free lateral flow test, you can still order them online from GOV.UK or you may be provided with tests through your workplace.”

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The latest government figures show that the number of people testing positive for Covid in England has risen by 1,472 in the week leading up to September 23, 2023.

Many experts have attributed the rise in cases to the emergence of new Covid variant Priola BA.2.86.

So could free lateral flow tests for everyone come back?

Dr Wong said: “It’s difficult to say for certain if free rapid lateral flow tests for COVID-19 will become widely available again.

“Free test distribution requires significant government spending and some countries and regions may allocate money for this if cases spike.

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“If an area experiences a major surge in cases, especially with a dangerous new variant, there may be increased pressure to make free testing accessible to contain spread.

“Milder waves are less likely to prompt renewed free test availability.”

As the known number of Pirola cases remains low, there’s currently no specific list of symptoms linked to the strain .

But Professor Emily E. Volk recommends being vigilant about the following signs: 

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Fever/chills
  • Muscle aches.

She added “it’s more important than ever” to get tested if you’re feeling sick.

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