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Is France only European country with free Covid tests?

Prime Minister Jean Castex stated in a recent speech that PCR tests cost up to €350 in the UK in some cases and France was 'unique' in offering them free to all

13 January 2021
In the UK, it is possible to pay for Covid-19 tests through private businesses, unlike in France
By Ben Smith

Reader question: Did the French prime minister really say France is the only country offering free PCR tests for Covid? I ask as this is not true, I got a free one in the UK in October.

Covid-19 tests in France are offered "totally free for everyone", which is "unique in Europe", Prime Minister Jean Castex stated during a press conference on January 7. 

He said that in Germany or Spain a person who wishes to be tested on their own initiative, without having symptoms of the illness, has to pay up to €100 and in the UK a PCR test in this case can cost as much as €350.

The Connexion has fact checked this claim with regards to the situation in the UK. 

A National Health Service (NHS) spokesperson in the UK clarified that while it is true that tests can be bought privately in the UK at prices as much as that mentioned by Mr Castex, they are also offered free with the NHS - but not in all circumstances.

How much does it cost to be tested for Covid-19 in the UK?

You can get a free NHS test if you show any common symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature, continuous cough, loss of sense of smell or taste, etc.) 

Other cirucmstances where you can obtain one include if you have been asked to get tested by a government official or if you have to go to hospital.

When would someone not be eligible to get a free NHS test?

The NHS does not cover the fee for tests in the following circumstances:

  • If you want to get tested but do not have any symptoms (this could be if your school or employer asks you)
  • If you are coming back from a high risk country (for example France)
  • If you are planning on leaving the UK (for a holiday, etc.)

In these circumstances, you will need to book a private test and cover the cost yourself.

The French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, claimed that a PCR test could cost up to €350 in the UK. Do you have any knowledge of this?

In the UK, there is no ceiling on the prices charged in private businesses. 

We have heard of a luxurious private clinic on Harley Street (London) that charges £350 for a PCR test. In this case, a health professional comes to your home and the result is guaranteed within 24 hours (normally that same afternoon).

More commonly pharmacies such as Boots or LloydsPharmacy offer PCR testing at £120 (€132).

Also acceptable for example for flying from the UK to France are certain antigen nasal swab tests with fast results and one popular London provider charges £69 for these.

Read more:

Negative Covid test to be required soon to enter UK

New Covid-19 UK variant: France steps up UK-France testing

UK-France travel: Finding the right Covid antigen test

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