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UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals – must isolate until results arrive

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Boris Johnson has announced new measures for anyone returning to the UK from a trip to any destination.

Everyone arriving in the UK will need to take a PCR test within two days of their return.

It is not clear when this will come into effect, as it presumably requires the publication of a Statutory Instrument which will appear here. Monday is probably the best bet. Whilst technically the announcement only applied to England, Scotland and Wales have already confirmed that they will follow suit.

EDIT: As this later article explains, it comes into effect at 4am on Tuesday.

UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals

In a major change from how the policy worked during the Summer, it will be compulsory to self-isolate until the result is known.

There will also be a return to mask wearing in shops and on public transport, although not in hospitality venues. This is effective from next week.

Anyone who has been in contact with anyone diagnosed with the new Omicron covid variant will have to self-isolate for 10 days irrespective of their vaccination status.

UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals

These rules will be introduced for a temporary period of three weeks and will be reviewed at that point.

In a separate announcement earlier on Saturday, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia were added to the ‘Red List’ of countries which will require hotel quarantine for anyone who has visited them within 10 days of returning to the UK. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini were placed on the list on Friday.

We will update this article as more details emerge. The official Government press release is here.

Comments (433)

  • Joe says:

    Out of interest – has anyone else submitted the same reference for a test for the last 10 arrivals into the UK they have had? 🙂

    • Cabal of rabid baboons says:

      Not too many people will admit to being a moron

      • StevieKicks says:

        The rules say you can buy them from anywhere. Technically nothing legally stopping you from buying them from a friend for 1p

        • Danny says:

          As long as that friend meets the extensive requirements including reporting to the Secretary of State…

    • StevieKicks says:

      Possibly 😉
      Still actually used the abundant free LFTs you can pick up everywhere

      • janie says:

        How without a reference to put on the PLF?!?

        • StevieKicks says:

          Either re use an existing reference, or create your own. There is no central database of references, they just have to meet a specific standard (amount of letters followed by amount of numbers)

    • JS says:

      No – because I cant remember what I used

    • Mike says:

      Joe – you are an idiot and placing others at risk

    • Elizabeth Wright says:

      Not really sure why there is so much aggression to your question. Yes, I have, as I ordered 6 PCR tests and 6 lateral flow tests in one delivery (I travel to Portugal a lot) and got a second box sent to us for free, I guess accidentally. Given they were free, and I didn’t order them, I had to keep using the same reference code(s) from the original order. Haven’t been pulled up on it thus far.

      • janie says:

        Are the codes the same format for PCR and LFT?

        • Elizabeth Wright says:

          Not in this case, no. The lateral flow tests (with C19) were required to travel to Portugal, the PCRs (with Randox in this case) were required for Day 2 testing on return. All bought through an online company. Different codes and reference numbers. We still have 2 leftover, which is good given we are off to Portugal again in 2 weeks.

          • Janie says:

            Thanks. The randox ones are just RANDX and then 7 numbers for me, I have a PCR previously ordered and wanted to check they haven’t changed the codes and that this won’t get rejected.

    • Peter says:

      Totally. I am not gonna pay £15 for a company to send me an LFT that I can get for free and am supposed to use twice a week anyway. With PCR it’s a bit different, but the UK has already so many O cases that there is no longer any point in trying to limit it. Meanwhile, in England, you can still go to a packed club without any ventilation, any vaccination, or leaving any details behind.

      • Elizabeth Wright says:

        To go to Portugal, until September, you needed to do a paid for LTF, if you didn’t have an EU vaccination certificate. The rule is being reintroduced on 1st December, where you have to show a negative LTF or PCR. Portugal isn’t going to do the sequencing, and you’re not submitting the information to the UK government as you’re leaving the country, so paid for LTFs are the most cost efficient.

  • Mark H says:

    It’s Tuesday at 0400GMT coming into effect . If you click through to do a PLF it informs of this. Although all test providers of course immediately stopped selling cheaper lateral flows which is a scam.

  • Murray says:

    Off topic, but does anyone know if it’s still possible to cancel an Amex (Platinum) after a few months of having it and getting the pro rata refund?

  • Scott says:

    Annoyingly, I can’t check in for a connecting flight tomorrow morning until I book a PCR test according to AA.
    Hopefully there will be options, and the new PLF at 8pm PST / 4am GMT today / tomorrow.

    • Scott says:

      I’ve booked a PCR test now.

      Went to check use Verifly and no problems. Just some questions asking if I’m vaccinated, had a test in the last 3 days, any symptoms, if I have UK PLF printouts etc.
      Didn’t ask for codes or anything connected to a PCR test.

      Just going to do a test on arrival at T3.

    • Track says:

      Can you remind AA check-in agents that all they need is PLF.

      I mean they can choose to check underlying documents, call HM Passport Office to confirm your passport and search your cavities by the argument that all of that is necessary for your own health and safety. But really, they should operate on Gov.UK accepted PLF form and that is it.

      • Track says:

        Yes, airlines are responsible to verify the documentation, and to meet the legal requirements imposed by the government they need a valid PLF.

        The airlines are not responsible and have no authority on behalf of the government to start checking and questioning test providers, and as a consequence refuse test docs or booking docs by the will of a check-in agent (who would be poorly trained, stressed, operating on 5-6 hours of sleep and have limited understanding and complete disregard for what the UK law/SI actually say).

        • Lady London says:

          I find the usual problem in USA and also encountered in one nasty incident in NZ, is outsourced checkin agents who don’t know airline and alliance rules properly and try to deny privileges and deny boarding. For incorrect reasons because they don’t know the rules or are applying the rules of the airline they spend most time working for.

          With the multiplicity of differing government requirements varying by flight I think those ground agents have an even tougher time now.

  • Scott says:

    Just filled in the UK PLF. Too many questions followed by more questions to be honest, especially compared to the US one that was something like 4 sliding boxes.

    “Where are you staying in the UK?”
    “When are you arriving at your home address?”
    “When are you leaving your home address?”

    Er….I’ve lived there for many years.
    Put down 10 days in the future as it had to have something.

    • Greenpen says:

      The third question is optional. I guess it is there for someone who is arriving home and then flying off again in a few days.

      • Lady London says:

        I’d take that last question as “when should Test & Trace stop harassing you when you’re already doing the right thing”.

        I got annoying automated calls and texts for a whole week after my data given to them clearly indicated I was leaving the UK 36 hours after returning. Muppets.

  • Safety Card says:

    Flying into Bristol airport this week and although there is a Nuffield clinic on site which does Fit To Fly rapid PCR tests they’re not doing the ‘day 2’ test. Which means my only option is to then take a cab to Bristol city centre to a clinic which does do a rapid PCR test so I can continue to work the next day. Which means the chance of me spreading the virus is increased. Seems mad that there hasn’t been a drive to get in airport arrival testing up and running.

    • The OP says:

      Hi Safety Card, do you have a particular clinic in mind? I can’t find any in or around Bristol that do day 2 testing and guarantee a rapid response (several do same day tests, but only for pre-departure or test-to-release tests). Maybe that will change in the next couple of days in light of the rule change, but it’s an issue for us as we land late on 22 Dec, so can’t test until the morning of 23 Dec, and 48 hours from there takes into day 1 of the 4 day Christmas break…

      • Safety Card says:

        Currently only finding centres that do 24 hour arrival tests, but my thinking is (and potentially wrong) that it’s the same test as the rapid response pre-departure test / test to release, so that should eventually be offered?

        • The OP says:

          Thanks. I found the same thing. I’m hoping they will change their approach now the new rules are coming in and offer 24 hour (or quicker) Day 2 tests. Will keep my eyes peeled. In the meantime, though, the company “local PCR” seemed to do same-day Day 2 tests in Bristol for £155. No idea about them as a company, though.

  • Amy says:

    There is not much logic in the rules since the beginning so I’m really impressed with how people react and call other idiots.
    We can take LF test 5min before the flight and PCR by the day 2, which means it can be done 3-4hr later after LF. But if we catch it on the plane we won’t see it quickly.
    Everyone leaving home is putting others at risk. So, calling others names when obligation to use masks in public (other than planes) has been long ago removed is nonsense.

    • Roy says:

      So you think we should have even more stringent regulations, to catch more cases amongst travellers? Or you think it’s OK to ignore the regulations we have, thus catching fewer cases.

      You can’t really have it both ways….

  • Will says:

    Anyone got any views on Geneva flights for Dec french ski holidays. looks like (and it’s not 100% clear) that 10 day quarantine is required in Switzerland, so that kills it.
    Spoke with Crystal Ski just now and they are still in planning meetings. Any chance extra flights are sent by BA to Lyon or Chambery as there must be many on Geneva flights

    • abc says:

      Shouldn’t your obligation to quartine end when you are leaving Switzerland?

    • Patrick says:

      Don’t forget, Geneva airport has a Swiss AND a French side 🙂
      Exit by the latter to solve your issue

      • Will says:

        Believe It’s closed due to refurbishment on the french side.
        The actual airport operation is Swiss unless you are on a french domestic flight apparentlyl

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