Government sets out next steps for living with COVID

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.
An image of a hand processing a lateral flow test

What happens from 1 April?

The government has said that from 1 April 2022 vaccines and treatments mean a move to managing COVID-19 like other respiratory illnesses.

Free COVID-19 tests will end for most people but will continue to be available to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff.

Stay at home if you have symptoms

From 1 April, if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, a high temperature or feel unwell,  you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until you feel well enough to resume normal activities and no longer have a high temperature.

If you have a positive COVID-19 test result stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when you are most infectious. If you really need to leave home, avoid close contact with people with a weakened immune system, wear a face-covering and avoid crowded places.

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature, and they are well enough to attend.

Thanks to our plan to tackle Covid we are leading the way in learning to live with the virus. 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 – please come forward to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
— Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid

Who will still get Symptomatic testing?

  • 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; and
  • 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). People will also be tested before being discharged from hospital into care homes and hospices.

What about Asymptomatic Testing (LFT tests)?

Lateral flow testing for some people who do not have symptoms will continue from April in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly. This includes

  • patient-facing staff in the NHS
  • staff in hospices 
  • 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.

In addition, testing will be provided for residential SEND (Special educational needs and disability), care home staff and residents during an outbreak and for care home residents upon admission. This also includes some staff in prisons and immigration removal centres.

What is the new guidance for Adult Social Care?

Most visitors to adult social care settings, and visitors to NHS settings, prisons or places of detention will no longer be required to take a test. 

  • Those working in adult social care services will continue to receive free personal protective equipment (PPE). Priority vaccinations and boosters for residents and staff will also continue
  • Outbreak management periods in care homes, which can include visiting restrictions, have been reduced from 14 to 10 days.

Further guidance for  adult social care settings will be set out.