If you’re planning to travel to the UK, a negative COVID-19 test will be required in most cases. Let’s break down the government advice into something more “understandable”.
When is it mandatory?
When do I need to take a test?
You will need to take it up to 3 days before you commence your travel to the UK. You can choose to take it before you in the place where you start your journey or in another country on your way to England.
If you are taking a connecting flight, or have one or more connecting flights to the UK, you should take a test as close as possible to the date of the first flight – if the connecting flights were booked as a single passenger record.
What sort of test do I need to take?
You must make sure that the test provider can meet the standards for pre-departure testing. The test must:
- meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml
- this could include tests such as:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.
You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards.
Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.
Note, if you are taking a short trip of fewer than three days, you can test within the United Kingdom. However, you cannot use any NHS Test and Trace service.
What information does the test result need to show?
Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate.
It must include the following information:
- your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
If the test result does not include this information you may not be able to board, and may not be able to travel to England. If you arrive without a test result that includes this information, you will be committing a criminal offence and could receive a £500 fine.
Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone.
Who needs to take a test?
Testing applies both to UK Citizens returning to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, as well as foreign nationals – except in the cases listed below.
Who does not need to take a test?
You do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:
- Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
- Ascension, Falkland Islands, St Helena
For a limited time period, you also do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:
- Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados (until 4am Thursday 21 January 2021 – you will need a test to travel on or after this date)
- Children aged under 11 do not need to take a test.
- for urgent medical treatment or are accompanying someone who is travelling for urgent medical treatment, and it is not reasonably practicable for you to obtain a negative COVID-19 test in the 3 days before departure
- if you have a medical condition which means you cannot take a test – you must present a note from a medical practitioner at check-in and to Border Force staff on arrival in England
Various jobs are also exempt. These include:
- border and customs officials
- channel tunnel system workers
- air, maritime and rail crew
- civil aviation inspectors
- people transporting human cells and blood products
- seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
- specialist technical workers doing emergency works
What if I do not want to be tested or provide proof I have a negative test?
You may be denied boarding to travel and could be fined £500 on arrival into England.
What if I obtain a positive test result?
If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.
What if my result is inconclusive?
If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test. You may not travel until you have a negative test
Do you I need to complete a passenger locator form still?
Yes. You must complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England. This is subject to the usual fines for not completing it.
Will I need to self-isolate on arrival?
If you have arrived from a country which is on the travel corridors list, you will not need to self-isolate.
If you have arrived from any other country, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You can reduce this by taking part in the Test to Release for International Travel scheme.
The scheme is not available to anyone who has been in or through South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the 10 days before arrival in England.
When will this measure end?
No end date has been given as this time.
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