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Are PCR and lateral flow tests available? Latest on UK Covid test shortages - and when you can order them

You should do rapid lateral tests on days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid

There have been recent reports that there have been shortages of PCR and lateral flow tests across the UK.

But are PCR and lateral flow tests currently available, and when should you book or order them?

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Here’s what you need to know.

Are PCR tests available?

As of 3pm on Thursday 30 December, in England there are very few PCR tests available to book at walk-through or drive-through test sites in the East Midlands, East of England, North East and West Midlands.

However, there are tests available in London, the North West, South West, South East, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

There are currently no tests available in Northern Ireland or Wales, and very few available in Scotland.

Home PCR tests are currently available to order.

When should I book a PCR test?

You should get a PCR test if you have any of these three Covid symptoms, even if mild:

  • high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or they’ve changed

You can order a PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site.

If you have symptoms of Covid you should self-isolate straight away until you get your results.

Do not leave home, except to post a test kit or for a PCR test appointment.

Are lateral flow tests available?

Lateral flow tests are currently unavailable to order from the Government website.

The website says: “Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now

“You may still be able to pick up rapid lateral flow tests from a pharmacy or collection point, where these are available. Only pick up tests if you do not have symptoms.

“If you have tests at home you can use these instead.

“The 119 service does not have access to more home delivery slots right now. You cannot order tests from NHS 111 or 999.”

In England, you can also get a collect code to pick up tests from a pharmacy.

When should I do a lateral flow test?

You should do rapid lateral tests on days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid.

For example, do a test before you:

  • mix with people in crowded indoor places
  • visit someone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19

You should also do daily rapid tests (one a day for seven days) if you’ve been in contact with

someone with Covid-19 and are either:

  • fully vaccinated
  • under 18 years and 6 months old