Updated 18 January 2021: To try to prevent new strains of coronavirus being imported, the Government has introduced new rules for entry to the UK, including mandatory Covid tests.
From today, everyone over the age of 10 – including British citizens – must provide a proof of a negative Covid test.
This new rule for entry to the UK is likely to be in place for several months.
Arrivals must also quarantine for up to 10 days, regardless of where they have come from.
Visitors from most of South America, Cape Verde, Portugal and Madeira as well as Qatar, Aruba, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba are banned.
British citizens can return to the UK from the above countries, but they must self-isolate for up to 10 days on arrival. If they arrive from 18 January, they must also have proof of a negative Covid test as a condition of entry.
What type of Covid test must I take?
There are several different types of Covid test. Some countries insist on the gold standard PCR test, but the UK will also accept LAMP and antigen tests.
Antigen tests are usually cheaper and the results are faster than PCR tests.
Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted and you must provide the original test result certificate.
It can be on paper, email or text but must include the following:
- your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and their contact details
- the name of the test device
When do I have to take a Covid test ?
The test must be taken no more than three days before your departure for the UK.
For example, if you are due to leave on a Friday the earliest you could take the test would be the previous Tuesday.
If you are travelling to the UK via another country where you plan to take the test, make sure this is possible. If not, you might be able to fly home but you risk a fine.
How do I find a Covid test provider?
Check the Foreign Office advice page for your destination to see if there is a list of local providers. The Government says these pages will be updated regularly.
If you need assistance, the Government says you should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.
I think they’re unlikely to be much help so you should research providers yourself before you leave home. If you can’t find a provider, it’s better not to travel or you might not get home again.
What if I can’t get a Covid test overseas?
Some countries don’t yet have adequate testing facilities so those returning imminently from Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados don’t have to be tested. However, this exemption is only until 4am on 21 January. After that, you must have a negative Covid test result.
You do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:
- Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
- Ascension, Falkland Islands,St Helena
My trip will be less than three days, can I get a tested in the UK before I Ieave?
You can, but you’ll have to take a private test. The Government says you mustn’t use the NHS testing service. This is only for those with Covid symptoms or key workers.
Will anyone check I’ve had a negative test?
Yes. Under the new rules for entry to the UK, airlines, train operators and ferry companies will all have to ask passengers for proof of a negative Covid test.
They’ll likely deny boarding to anyone who doesn’t have a negative test certificate. If they carry someone without a Covid test, they risk a fine.
Spot checks will be carried out at UK ports and airports. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said today such checks were being ramped up. If you don’t have proof of a negative test you could be fined at least £500.
What if my Covid test result is positive?
You won’t be allowed to enter the UK with a positive test result so your airline or train operator will almost certainly refuse to let you board.
The UK Government says you should remain where you are and follow local rules.
If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.
Do I still have to quarantine with a negative Covid test result?
From 18 January, everyone who enters the UK must quarantine for up to 10 days.
You can end your quarantine early if you take a second Covid test on day five of your quarantine period and get a second negative result.
If you arrived or returned to the UK before 18 January from a country with a travel corridor with the UK you won’t have to isolate.
But from today, the Government has closed all its travel corridors.
PM Johnson says this is a temporary measure, but he hasn’t said for how long.