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Government scraps pre-arrival covid testing and ‘Day 2’ PCR tests

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The Government has confirmed this afternoon that you will no longer be required to take a covid test before travelling to England.

You will also no longer need to take a ‘Day 2’ PCR test and self-isolate until you receive the result.

Government scraps pre-arrival covid testing

The system will return to how it was late last year for those who are fully vaccinated. At some point the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is likely to be changed to include only those who have also received a booster shot, but this has not yet happened.

You will still be required to take a ‘Day 2’ (really a Day 0-2) lateral flow test when you return to the UK. However, there is no requirement to isolate until you receive the result and so you can immediately return to work or education after landing.

As before, you must purchase your lateral flow test before you return to England and enter the purchase reference number on your Passenger Locator Form.

The implementation period is confusing, unfortuately:

  • Anyone arriving after 4am on Friday will not need to have done a pre-arrival test
  • Anyone arriving after 4am on Friday will not need to self-isolate whilst they await their test result
  • Anyone arriving after 4am on Sunday will be able to take a ‘Day 0-2’ lateral flow test instead of a PCR test

This means that anyone arriving between 4am Friday and 4am Sunday will still need to do a PCR test on arrival, even though they will no longer need to isolate whilst awaiting the result.

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic said:

“The removal of pre-departure testing before travel to the UK and costly PCR testing upon arrival is welcome progress and a necessary step towards frictionless air travel for our customers. Travellers can now book with confidence and look forward to reconnecting with loved ones and business colleagues. Meanwhile customer demand will be boosted in a critical booking window for the travel industry and vital testing capacity can be reallocated where it is needed the most – in hospitals, schools and crucial national infrastructure.

“Throughout the pandemic we have demonstrated that international travel can operate safely, taking full advantage of our world leading vaccine rollout. We want to thank the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Transport – and their teams – for working with us to lead the way in returning travel at scale, and in turn, boosting prospects for economic recovery. We look forward to working together towards the next review at the end of January, when the ultimate goal will be removal of all testing for travel and developing a playbook for how to deal with any new variants.”

Comments (120)

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  • Alan H says:

    Welcome change. Travelling in CS to GCM on Friday and prices for our return covid test to enter the UK were £120 each so that’s a saving of £240!

  • Erico1875 says:

    I wonder how long it will be before Scotland falls in to line with England?
    I’d like to book the Canaries for a week, end of Jan. I dont have enough holidays available to do the 2 day isolation reqd on return.
    Jet2 have some really good package deals from Glasgow, but it’s a risk if Nasty Nick doesn’t change the rules.
    I was an independence voter, but the Scottish Governments antics have made me think twice, not that Im a fan of Boris and his pals either

    • TGLoyalty says:

      If you do a fast test on landing there’s no 2 day isolation. Could be as quick as 3 hours.

    • Paul says:

      Oh have a day off!

      She has followed the science. Johnson can’t, as his cabinet and backbenchers are in full revolt. Dropping testing has more to do with lack of tests, lack of capacity to test and to stop counting the mounting infection numbers. It’s all about the Tory party and nothing else!

      Those infected may not be very ill, I wasn’t and not testing may prove to be right, but it’s not yet backed by any real evidence and is a gamble.

      Personally, I prefer the approach Scotland has taken, one more reason why my family are moving north

  • Redeyedonkey says:

    I realise this is going to vary a lot country by country in Europe depending on where one is going back to but as a general rule how was it working before under these ‘old rules’ if someone is coming to a 2 day conference in the UK from Europe do they have to do our 2 day test even though they’re at the airport leaving the country at that point AND another test as required by their destination or???

    • riku says:

      you have answered you own question. it varies by country. there is no general rule. And many countries don’t mandate entry tests for their own citizens or residents anyway – the principle being that if you live there you’re probably going back to your own house, not a hotel and moving around doing tourist type things.

  • Chris says:

    QQ – What is the cheapest “observed” lateral flow provider you have used to fly out to US?

    • SammyJ says:

      We used DocHQ which is £24.50 with code RETURN30. Got the cert while we were still on the call.
      If you’ve already got some non-NHS tests kicking around that you can use it works out under a tenner with them just by booking a video for up to 4, and buying the certs for £6 each.

  • Aaron C says:

    We’ve booked some Day 2 PCRs with Express Test at LGW which are now redundant. Is there any chance of a refund?

    • SH says:

      In my experience if you cancel with ExpressTest you will shortly afterwards get a voucher code in that amount which you can then type into the checkout of a new booking for the type of test you now need or a future trip.

  • CH says:

    While I think the simplification is a net positive, I still don’t understand why a test on arrival is preferred to a pre-departure test.

    • SH says:

      Presumably preferable for airlines who are no longer adjudicating the suitability of your test or authenticity of your certificate but just checking that you have completed a PLF

      • YFP says:

        and also, no risk of getting a positive test and having to isolate for 10 days in a foreign country! That alone puts me off, so this is very welcome

    • QFFlyer says:

      I’ve asked this question. My only thought is that there’s no need to stop it entering the country (as community transmission is rife anyway), but they still want to know who’s got the virus and where they are.

      I flew to England in November, to come back to Australia I needed a pre-departure PCR, then a day 1 PCR and a day 5-7 PCR after arrival (luckily the latter two are paid for by Medicare). So the English system seems a dream in comparison!

    • Dominic says:

      Short haul airlines cannot sustain a model whereby people won’t take short trips to Europe as a result of the risk of not being let back in.

      Scientifically flawed, of course, but business has won that argument.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      For people the fear is always testing positive on holiday and being stuck there

      They would much rather get home and test positive and isolate at home. The problem with that is if they are positive they’ll infect others on the flight.

  • stankpa says:

    Good morning! We are flying back from US to Scotland via London on BA on Saturday. Am I right in thinking that English rules apply for entry to UK?

    • Rob says:

      Technically no, because you live in Scotland and must obey Scottish law. However, you will land in Scotland as a domestic passenger so your documents won’t be checked.

      • Patrycja says:

        My VeriFLY pre departure test box is showing as completed even though we haven’t submitted anything. In the past it was entry point that made a difference I.e. for amber countries you had to quarantine in the hotel if you entered Scotland directly but quarantine at home if you flew into England and made your way to Scotland. I am hoping this will be the same approach.

  • GS says:

    I’m currently in the States, due back mid morning on Sunday. I’ve got a LFT with me (which I was going to be using for ‘fit to fly’ back to the UK but that’s not now required). Can I now use that LFT as my day 0-2 test rather than the PCR that I’ve got as part of the same package? Or do I have to use the PCR given the latter was purchased as my day 0-2 test and the LCF was for ‘fit to fly’. They are on a single reference from the provider (Randox) for PLF purposes as they were one package.

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