At the time of writing, the UK’s Covid-19 restrictions are continually changing. The government has outlined a plan to ease lockdown restrictions, but so far hasn’t detailed any revised rules around holidays and travel. Currently, travel is not permitted and UK citizens are required to stay at home. Travel is only allowed if a passenger has a legally permitted reason and travel for holidays and leisure purposes is not allowed. However, if you do travel, there are some critical Covid testing requirements that you need to be aware of.
Covid testing before travel
In order to travel outside of the UK, you must have proof of a negative coronavirus test. Most countries require this to be completed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival at your destination. If you are unable to claim an NHS test, you will need to take a test through an approved and regulated provider such as Medicspot. The government has a full list of approved private coronavirus testing kit providers, so that travellers can do the right research and choose an testing kit that gives accurate results.
All passengers are required to take the test in the three days before they start their journey, and will need to provide proof of a negative result before boarding an aircraft. This proof can be on your mobile phone, or in print form. If you are not able to provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test result, you will not be allowed to travel. People on domestic flights within the UK and those arriving from Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena will not need to take a test.
Testing during travel
You should make sure that you read all information that is available to you about Covid-19 regulations in your destination. If you are travelling because of work, speak to your employer or occupational health advisor to ensure that you are properly prepared should you need to take a coronavirus test during your trip (because of work reasons, etc). If you need a test, you can purchase one privately. Keep in mind that symptoms of Covid-19 can begin to take hold up to 14 days after catching the virus.
Covid testing after travel
When you have to return to the UK, you will again need to take a coronavirus test. This must be taken with 72 hours of your departure. At the UK border, passengers will be required to fill in a passenger locator form, and provide proof of a negative coronavirus test result. You will also need to book and pay for a travel test package, which costs £210. The package will include two coronavirus tests to be taken on/before day 2 and on/after day 8 of your 10-day quarantine. Once you have crossed the border, you should leave the airport and public spaces as soon as possible, and you will need to quarantine for 10 full days. If you fail to complete the passenger locator form, you could be fined up to £10,000. If you refuse to take a coronavirus test, you could face a fine of up to £2,000.
You must quarantine in the same place that you state on your passenger locator form. This can be your home, in a quarantine hotel (if travelling from a ‘red list’ country), or a property owned by friends and family. You cannot go out for 10 days, except for very exceptional reasons, such as escaping domestic abuse. You will need to ask friends, family or a volunteer support scheme to help you arrange things like buying food and medications or to walk the dog, for example. You also shouldn’t travel out to work or head out to exercise until your quarantine period has finished. Above all, staying indoors helps to keep you and everyone else safe.
The government has created a scheme called ‘Test to Release’ for those living in England. Under this scheme, travellers pay privately for a Covid-19 test. If you test negative, you can end your quarantine. The scheme is voluntary and if you do not want to take part, you will have to quarantine for the full 10 days. To take part in the scheme, you have to book a private test from one of the government-approved test providers and then fill in a passenger locator form. You will need to do this before departing for England. Each test must be paid for privately by yourself. If you have other travellers in your party (family members, etc), they will also need an individual test of their own, which will need to be privately paid for.
You cannot opt in to the ‘Test to Release’ scheme if you have travelled through or previously stayed in a country that is on the travel ban red list in the 10 days prior to your arrival back into the UK. If you have passed through or have visited a ‘red list’ country, entry will not be permitted until you have quarantined in a quarantine hotel operated by the government. You will also need to be tested on day 2 and 8 of your quarantine, which will be provided by the hotel as part of your package – a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel will cost £1,750.
While travelling is currently illegal except in limited circumstances, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the testing restrictions before, during and after travel.