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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)

  • Scarlett says:

    What if you take off on Monday 6th but land on Tuesday 7th at 8am?

    • Rob says:

      It will be based on landing time, I assume, but all will be clear very soon.

      • Simon Schus says:

        Hmm – in the past it was based on calendar days from departure time (of the flight on which you will arrive into the UK).

        • meta says:

          It’s now based on hours. 48h before to be precise.

          • Simon Schus says:

            I think we should wait before the statutory instrument arrives that describes the change. I anticipate it’ll be based on calendar days rather than hours.

          • Polly says:

            Now days, Meta

      • A says:

        Can’t be, surely?
        It’s a pre-departure test – not a pre-arrival test – to determine permission to board & travel, not permission to arrive.
        If your departure is on monday night (say, 10pm JFK-LHR) thats a) on monday, and b) even with the time difference removed the departure is still pre 4am monday UK time.
        I have a friend visiting flying on monday night JFK-LHR and she is stressing now!

        • Polly says:

          A
          We understood the same, we moved our flights to tomorrow evening. Departing 23.00 no word from BA yet that we must take a test to board. But… we arrive in 5.30.
          It’s called a pre departure test, not an arrivals test…that was on gov.Uk, it’s why we changed our fights.
          Now we might have to change again, and leave tonight..

      • Polly says:

        Rob,
        Just spoke to You 1st. They state clearly the sentence “ Until 4am Dec 7th, you do not have to take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England, if you qualify as fully vaccinated and you have not been in a red list country”
        Therefore, people departing tomorrow Monday are fine, even if they arrive after 4am. It’s based on the departure time. BA won’t deny boarding, in this situation, is what we have been told.

        Seems clear to BA and us….but who knows…

        • Polly says:

          Wording has now been changed on gov.uk. It has clarified the wording departing v arrival time that is critical….must have had a call from BA. Told me they had loads of calls today… so hopefully we can get on that plane tomorrow now….

  • Mark says:

    The craziest thing about these new restrictions?
    THE NEW VARIANT IS ALREADY HERE!

    • meta says:

      And possibly, I stress possibly, we have spread it around the world given that rules here were some of the most relaxed in the world…

      • John says:

        Other countries could have restricted entry from the UK

        • meta says:

          Likewise, UK could have shut itself to stop the spread a la China.

          Nobody did (well, apart from China and that is not without issues). They didn’t because they know that once it’s discovered somewhere you can almost be certain that community transmission has already happened everywhere, so no point.

          Omicron was almost certainly present around the globe in October if not earlier, we just didn’t know about it yet then. They are re-doing the sequencing of earlier samples at the moment.

  • meta says:

    Randox already has the package ready for £72…

  • Andrew says:

    Previously the return to the U.K. test didn’t need to be supervised – the Collinson one just required you to send a photo of the LFT and your passport and the certificate came back within seconds by email. You could pay more for supervised but that isn’t a requirement. So hopefully the same will be the case.

  • Nicky says:

    Travelling back from States on 4th January, so will I be able to use the 2 wasted LFT’s that I prematurely ordered or will I have to find somewhere in New York to take a test? (If the latter does anyone know if JFK can do the tests?)

    • Rob says:

      Only if they are video supervised tests.

      • Andrew says:

        Not correct. Video not required for return to U.K. tests – you can use those ones and they will issue you with a certificate when you send them a photo of the LFT. Will work out quite well for you.

        • Gavin says:

          Indeed, when I did test to return over the summer it was not video supervised. The result was just confirmed by photo.

          • Rob says:

            The point is that you can’t do an NHS one and flash the test cartridge at check-in ….

          • James says:

            I haven’t seen anything official from Sajid javid or elsewhere that have said it has to be supervised unless I’ve missed something?

          • Andrew says:

            But Nicky asked if they could use the LFTs they *bought* for the day 2 test before the rules changed.

        • Blenz101 says:

          Have you had advance sight of the statutory instrument?

          • meta says:

            We don’t know what type of test will be required either. Already the health secretary (on ITV news) confirmed it will have to be 48h before which is different from summer.

    • Blenz101 says:

      Will the provider issue you a fit to fly certificate for the two tests you purchased and will they comply with the yet you be published SI.

    • GeorgeJ says:

      Nicky, I suspect the one thing you can be sure of is that the rules will have changed by then! Little point in planning for what might never be.
      I come back from Mexico a couple of days later than you and I dont intend making any plans to stay or go until I see what is in force after the New Year.

      • Nicky says:

        Well, the two tests are sitting there unopened and the provider won’t refund so I’ll take them with me just in case.

  • Terwri says:

    Travelling home from US on Tuesday night. So will need to find a test ( no idea what variety) on Monday

    • Blenz101 says:

      Correct. Only information so far is that there will be a certification requirement so you can’t just pick up a test at a pharmacy and declare yourself fit to fly.

      Safest bet would be to secure a proper PCR test tomorrow with results back in 24/48 hours.

      • Simon Schus says:

        For some of the unsupervised Lateral Flow tests that can be purchased off the shelf in US pharmacies you can separately purchase an add-on for the supervision part on the website. Ellume, for example. I don’t know whether eMed/Binax have that add-on for the non-supervised tests as I’ve only ever purchased ones that have supervision already included.

      • Terwri says:

        Yes. Just that I recently recovered( before flying here) so am a bit nervous about a PCR.

  • Tara says:

    Does anyone know where you can get these tests in NYC? Just landed here and coming back after the new rules start!

    • Will in SFO says:

      Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reid all do testing.

    • Lyn says:

      If you are staying in a hotel they could probably advise you. I don’t know about NYC but in California, for instance, a lot of pharmacies/drug stores do Covid tests.

      • Chris says:

        How much do they cost?

        • Tara says:

          Thanks all. Do these places provide certificates?

          • A says:

            Tara, there are places here in NYC you can get free PCR tests, regardless of immigration, with results in 24hrs and acceptable for UK bound travel (well, they were when it was last required anyway).

        • Lyn says:

          I think they are free for people who live in the US, even those without health insurance. I don’t know about visitors, although I think I remember reading one or two comments on here from people who were able to get free tests while visiting the US.

  • Qrfan says:

    Referring just to the lft requirement is a bit disingenuous given you are clearly aware this is not the only measure that has been added. As Rob says, the cost of travel is becoming prohibitive for many families, which does mean the world is closing to them.

    • Freddy says:

      Cost is one issue for families but so is the hassle of trying to undertake multiple tests on multiple children. I’ve used up my travel vouchers this summer and probably won’t bother travelling abroad if this is the palava we have to go through

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