How have Pre-Half-Term Covid Test Rules Changes Affected Travellers?

If you are hoping to travel abroad with your family this year, there’s some good news for both you and the travel industry. Covid-19 test rules have been relaxed for people traveling to England, just in time for the October half-term.

Fully vaccinated people arriving in the UK from a non-red list country can now use a lateral flow test, rather than a PCR test, to check they don’t have the virus. While it’s a huge boost for the travel and tourism industry, it also means travelers can benefit from cheaper testing and faster results.

PCR tests replaced by lateral flow for vaccinated travelers

The PCR test travelers had to take on the second day after arriving, is now replaced with the cheaper lateral flow test. This gives a much quicker result.

Lateral flow tests for international travel are not available on the NHS and must be purchased from a private provider such as Medicspot. People can take a photograph of their negative lateral flow result to prove they have not contracted Covid-19. However, if a traveler tests positive, they must take a free PCR test to confirm the result and self-isolate.

Unvaccinated travelers must take a pre-departure test before returning to England, and purchase a PCR test to take on day two. Quarantining for ten days at home is still mandatory for unvaccinated people, regardless of where they traveled to the UK from. They can opt to pay for an additional PCR test on day five as part of the Test to Release scheme, to reduce their time in quarantine.

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People traveling from England to the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland within ten days of arriving in England, must follow the quarantine and testing rules for those places.

Changes to travel traffic light rules

This is the latest in a series of changes to UK travel rules to make traveling to and from the UK more accessible. The traffic light system of green, amber and red countries, has been replaced with just a red list and a ‘rest of the world’ category.

People who have had two Covid vaccinations will not be required to take a pre-departure test before traveling back to the UK from any non-red country.

Red list countries

Forty-seven countries have now been removed from the red country list, including Turkey, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong, Ghana, Brazil, Thailand, Nepal, and Mexico. The remaining seven countries on the red country list considered high-risk are:

  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Peru
  • Ecuador
  • Haiti
  • Dominican Republic

People returning from a red list country are still required to quarantine for ten days (11 nights), at a government-approved hotel. This will come at their own cost of around £2,285 per person.

You should book your quarantine hotel before traveling to England, and then take a lateral flow test on days two and eight of your quarantine.

Future travel list changes

The government says non-red countries are under constant review. They will take action if a particular country’s Covid related circumstances change.

However, it’s hoped that with more than 45.5 million people in the UK double vaccinated, and many other countries now highly vaccinated too, there’s enough stability to open up the world’s travel. If you are planning to travel abroad this year, you should check the rules and regulations of that particular country before you go. Travel rules can change at short notice.

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Replacing the more expensive mandatory PCR tests with cheaper lateral flow tests, combined with changes to the travel traffic light system, should give international travel the boost it urgently needs. It will also encourage people to book foreign holidays with confidence.

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