The UK Government has finally agreed to remove the need for costly PCR tests for vaccinated travellers returning to England from half-term holidays. The government confirmed that lateral flow tests will be introduced in place of PCRs from October 24 for fully-jabbed passengers and most under 18s arriving in England from countries not on the red travel list.
The lateral flow tests will be available to book via a list of providers on the GOV.UK website from October 22. Passengers will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test and booking reference supplied the private provider and send it back to them to verify the result.
Travellers are also able to book to have a test which they can take on their arrival into the UK at testing centres located in some airports. The arrival test must be taken as soon as possible on or before the second day of a passenger’s arrival in the UK. Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test.
The government announced the change “thanks to the success of the vaccination programme both in the UK and around the world which has protected millions of people and reduced the risks of opening up international travel”. The government will continue to publish a list of private testing providers who meet the minimum standards for the public to choose from, with PCR test options available as well.
All travellers must complete their Passenger Locator Form prior to travel, including a test booking reference number supplied by a testing provider. Travellers will be able to upload their test booking reference to the Passenger Locator Form from 22 October for arrival in the UK from 24 October.
Eligible travellers vaccinated in over 100 countries and territories including Maldives, Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey, will be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated UK residents. This means they will be eligible for the quarantine exemption and reduced testing measures, including taking just a lateral flow test on arrival. This is as long as they have not visited a red list country or territory in the 10 days before arriving in England. Eligible under 18s from these countries will also be treated as if fully vaccinated.
Passengers who are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine returning from a non-red destination must still take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight test and complete 10 days of quarantine, with the option to test to release on day five.