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Britons will need multiple Covid tests for foreign holidays this summer


Holidaymakers will have to have multiple Covid tests when non-essential foreign travel resumes, the Government confirmed today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at his much-anticipated Easter Monday Downing Street briefing he remains hopeful that the ban on foreign holidays will be lifted on 17 May, but he stressed this isn’t guaranteed.

The Government also advised against booking holidays abroad “until the picture is clearer”. It added that “it hopes people will be able to travel to and from the UK to take a summer holiday this year, but it is still too soon to know what is possible”.

Once international travel does resume, there will be a ‘traffic light system’ for countries depending on their level of risk, with quarantine-free travel only allowed to countries in the ‘green’ zone.

Anyone returning from countries in the amber zone will have to self-isolate at home for up to 10 days. Only UK residents will be allowed into England from countries in the red zone and they’ll have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a Government-designated hotel for 10 days.

But it’s too early to say which countries will be green, amber or red. Also, countries are likely to move between categories, possibly at short notice.


How many Covid tests will I need?

So far, the Government has only confirmed that travellers will have to take a Covid test before they return to the UK and that they’ll have to be tested again on arrival. It hasn’t specified how many or what type of tests will be required.

Currently, anyone making essential trips abroad must take a test no more than 72 hours before starting their journey home and then two further tests after arriving in England.

The Government hasn’t said if it will still require two tests on arrival in the UK or what type of test will be required. It could insist on the more expensive but more accurate PCR tests, which cost at least £70 per person, or the slightly cheaper but less accurate antigen tests.


Where to get the cheapest Covid tests


Mr Johnson said today that further information will be provided by a Global Travel Taskforce later this week.

However, the Taskforce, set up in February, wasn’t originally due to report back until 12 April so it’s possible we’ll have to wait until next Monday for further details.

You might also need a Covid test to enter your chosen destination, depending on where you’re travelling and if you’ve been vaccinated. If so, you’ll need to pay for a private test, you can’t use the NHS tests for foreign holidays.

It’s possible the UK Government Taskforce will announce cheaper or subsidised Covid tests for holidaymakers, but this hasn’t been confirmed.


Will I have to be tested if I’m vaccinated?

The Government says restrictions could be lifted for vaccinated holidaymakers, but it seems unlikely this will happen initially.

It said “the vaccination programme could offer a more stable route out of the need for such restrictions” as long as it proves effective against variants of the virus that pose the greatest risk.

However, the Government still has to figure out how holidaymakers will prove they’ve had the Covid vaccine.

Mr Johnson said the Government’s working on a form of “Covid-status certification”, which will record vaccines, tests and also if you’ve recovered from the virus within the previous six months (so you might still have antibodies).

But there are doubts about whether this will be blocked by Parliament since MPs are already claiming such a thing is ‘un-British’.

The Government’s latest ‘roadmap review” said: “The current intention is that, when non-essential international travel does resume, the NHS solution will facilitate international travel where certification is required, and we will look to establish arrangements with other countries and international organisations to establish mutual recognition of certificates.”

Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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