Can you still get a PCR test for free if you have symptoms?

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Covid has extended its vice grip on the UK again in recent weeks, with hundreds of thousands of new infections per day. The news has not given ministers pause, as they neither plan to introduce new measures nor keep tests free. They have asked people not to stockpile and reserve free tests for those most in need, but some won’t be able to get one anyway.

Can you still get a free PCR test if you have symptoms?

People currently have access to lateral flow and PCR tests for free in the UK.

Both are available via the Government’s dedicated testing site, provided those requesting them meet the correct criteria.

Lateral flow tests are for those without Covid symptoms.

Anyone experiencing symptoms will need to order a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The Government asks people to use its PCR service if they have one or more of three specified Covid signs.

They include:

  • A high temperature (38C+)
  • A new, continuous cough
  • Loss of or change to sense of smell and taste

People with those symptoms should stay at home while they await any tests.

Ultimately, whether or not they receive one will depend on how many suppliers have in stock.

And they will have to serve priority groups first.

The Government currently outlines three, all of whom have public-facing jobs.

Eligible groups include:

  • NHS staff
  • Social care staff
  • Teachers
  • Transport staff

There are also several other situations where people can order a test if they do not have symptoms.

People can secure a free PCR test if:

  • They need a test for someone they live with who has symptoms
  • A GP has requested they get a test
  • They live in Scotland and have a close contact who isn’t fully vaccinated
  • They need to confirm a positive rapid lateral flow test to apply for a Self-isolation Support Grant in Scotland
  • They are eligible for new COVID-19 treatments and need a replacement PCR test
  • They are eligible for new COVID-19 treatments in Northern Ireland and need a test
  • They received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
  • They need to get a test as part of research
  • They are taking part in a government pilot project
  • They are in the National Tactical Response Group

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