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UK introduces pre-departure Covid tests from Tuesday 7th

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The Government has announced this evening that pre-departure tests will be required for anyone landing in the UK after 4am on Tuesday for anyone travelling to the UK.

This is despite Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, telling The Daily Telegraph on Thursday that it wouldn’t happen, and that it would be ‘killing off the travel sector’.

A family of four will now be looking at £500 of testing purely to return to the UK – a lateral flow or PCR test before the flight and a PCR test after the flight – on top of any testing required by the country you are visiting. The cost could easily top £750 for a family.

The official wording is here.

Testing applies to arrivals aged 12 and over, with limited exceptions.

The test must be taken in the two days before departure. If you fly to the UK on a Wednesday, the test must be taken on Monday or Tuesday.

A lateral flow or PCR test is acceptable, as long as an acceptable certificate can be produced.

We reviewed the Qured video testing system here and I used it myself when returning from Spain in the Summer. It was an efficient system but clearly needs a degree of forward planning – anyone abroad now and returning to the UK on Tuesday will need to source a test locally.

The British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said in a statement:

“The blanket re-introduction of testing to enter the UK, on top of the current regime of isolation and PCR testing on arrival is completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science. Our customers will now be faced with uncertainty and chaos and yet again this a devasting blow for everyone who works in the travel industry.”

In a separate move, Nigeria will be added to the 10 Southern African countries on the ‘Red List’ from 4am on Monday. This will be a blow to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, for whom Lagos is one of their most profitable routes.

Comments (375)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ian says:

    Looks like there’s a missing link to the Qured review.

  • k says:

    You’d need to be bonkers to want to travel these days

    • Babyg says:

      or be colin

    • Thywillbedone says:

      Just binned a trip to Thailand over Christmas… facing 5 tests in total (3 out and 2 back) …was spending inordinate amount of time planning/re-planning/wondering if there were flaws in my plans …way too much aggravation and felt like I would have to keep watching news while over there ‘just in case’. I can think of better ways of spending money…

  • Roberto says:

    What about all the people who got vaccinated so they could get back to normal again and travel hassle free?

    • Rich says:

      They will curse the arrival of Omicron, just like everyone else.

      • Roberto says:

        ZERO Omicron deaths still but yes let’s close the world back down for a cold

      • Rich says:

        Well, asking for a LFT before travel is hardy closing the world down. Covid is not a cold. And as for zero Omicron deaths: a) probably incorrect, and b) ask again in a month.

        • Roberto says:

          Ask again in a month how many more restrictions have been ushered in!
          My point still stands if you got the jab to get your freedom back as was advertised at the time you have been sold down the river.

          • John says:

            You haven’t been sold down the river, it is another variant which little is known of its impact. You seem to be another one of these people who thinks covid doesn’t exist. WAKE UP!!!!

          • illuminatus says:


          • Chris says:

            We keep being told we’re guided by the science and the data, but decisions on Omicrom are being taken before there’s any data.

            There is a political imperative though, which is to appear pro-active ahead of the public enquiry next year.

            Not to mention the need to keep Doris and George onside with their votes, to hell with anyone under 65.

    • His Holyness says:

      Vote with your feet. Be lucky to live in a country without forced vaccination…

    • His Holyness says:

      Just mix it in with my Corn Flakes

    • Geoff 1977 says:

      What about them?

    • patrick C says:

      It’s lovely when after 2 years and that much misery people still see covid as a cold… and people scared of a vaccine but willing to get a virus with a list of potential “side effects” (heart infkammation, blood clods, brain damage etc )
      But it is true that the new testing requirement is non senee.
      For one, Omicron has arrived in the uk already and no measures are being taken to limit travel say from london to Manchester. Given the local transmission, resucing travel from countries with similar low omicron cases rely doesn’t change a thing. It is applying a scientific principle (less travel) to a subset that makes it close to useless overall…

      Besides there is still hope that omicron actually ends the pandemic. Either way cpvod only ends with a strain that is apreading faster than delta (otherwise it loses the competition game) and less virulent. But if Omicron does not fulfil this, it would indeed be a terrifying prospect as it wiuld set us back for quite some time…

  • AllyCat says:

    Sounds like we will just miss this bullet. Flying back from BGI Sunday, arrive 0550 Monday. Phew.

  • James says:

    Sounds great

  • YFP says:

    Get double vaccinated, still have to do 4 COVID tests just for a weekend trip! (Pre-departure x2 + Post arrival x2). Christmas markets postponed another year in a row.

    • J says:

      It’s hard to justify why vaccination status should make much difference to the testing requirement. I could see it if vaccination had, say, a 10x reduction in infection and/or transmission, but it doesn’t. Testing (unlike vaccination, which also benefits the individual) is only there to protect others, so makes sense to apply to all regardless of vaccination status. Probably should be free/subsidised though.

      • Freddy says:

        If the population has been protected through vaccination who on earth are we protecting

  • His Holyness says:

    How does the self-isolation stuff work? The PLF data is sent to NHS T&T and then the lab you choose to test with sends the result to T&T, have I got that right?

    • Rob says:

      No, the result comes to you. T&T has no idea what is going on unless you are positive, at which point they are automatically notified.

      • His Holyness says:

        So its an honour system, if T&T ring you up at day 3-4 (allowing time for the result) onwards, you need to be able to provide a reference or something like that?

        • Rob says:

          No. No-one calls you, ever, unless your test is positive.

          No-one checks you have bought a test and no-one checks that you return the test.

          • Blenz101 says:

            Well the PLF checks you have purchased a test and the loophole surrounding that check is reportedly being fixed.

          • Rob says:

            Hasn’t been changed in the last year!

            It will be very difficult to check this – is the Government meant to send a daily list to each test provider and ask which numbers exist?

          • Jonathan says:

            The providers give the government details of all test purchases & results daily. Even the civil service could probably find a way to combine that data with PLF’s & see who’s been following the rules. Failing to send the test off would probably not be punished as you could say it was lost in post but making up a code is a slam dunk fine if they can be bothered.

        • Blenz101 says:

          Not sure why you care about the mechanics? If you follow the rules and purchase and take the required tests nothing more is required of you.

          • His Holyness says:

            Blenz101 you could have worked in Colditz with that attitude… follow the rules.. don’t fret about the government spying on your online communications, nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

            I suggest The Lives of Others as your Netflix and Chill tonight.

          • Blenz101 says:

            I just didn’t get your point around an honour system or quoting T&T reference numbers days after taking them.

            If you are travelling and want to break the rules it’s really really easy…. Don’t want to hear from T&T get your phone number wrong by a digit on the PLF. Don’t want a home visit relating to your isolation, provide a random hotel address. Don’t want to do institutional quarantine from red list country, declare yourself in transit and vanish between airports. Don’t want to buy day 2 tests, make up the numbers in the formats widely available on the internet. Don’t want to take a pre departure test, edit a PDF to create your own negative result etc etc etc.

            It’s in no way a secure system but it’s designed so most people comply and apparently slow the spread.

            Will be a real shame if allowing the spread in vaccinated populations was actually helping boost immunity with the only consequence / symptom of this variant being a mild cold.

          • TJones says:

            Godwin’s Law demonstrated right there.

  • Jamie says:

    Does anyone know if there is anywhere near to Heathrow Airport (T3) that I can purchase an LFT in person to take with me that will be suitable for this pre-return test?

    • Blenz101 says:

      As mentioned in the article it is likely your test is going to need to be supervised and a certificate issued.

      If you want to buy pre-departure it will need to be from an online provider offering video calls rather than somewhere located physically near T3.

      • Andrew says:

        Video supervision is not required. Rob is forgetting what the requirements were in the summer.

        • Blenz101 says:

          You don’t know what the new requirements will be but there will be a certification regime.

          Picking up a LFT from a pharmacy near T3 isn’t going to help you get back into the U.K.

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