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Covid test to enter the UK

You must show a negative test result for coronavirus within 3 days of your departure to the UK.

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You are required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken 3 days before you depart to England. This guide helps you learn more about pre-departure testing requirements before travelling to the UK.

What coronavirus testing is required before travelling to Scotland and Wales?

Since 18 January 2021, you are required to take a Covid-19 test and receive a negative result before travelling to Scotland and Wales. You must take the test within 3 days of starting your journey to Scotland or Wales. Learn more about pre-departure testing before travelling to Scotland or Wales.

What Covid testing is required before I travel to Northern Ireland?

Since 21 January 2021, most people travelling to Northern Ireland from abroad will need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken 3 days before departure. Visit nidirect.gov.uk to learn how this will affect you.

What Covid tests do I need before travelling to England?

You must take a Covid test and have proof of a negative result before you travel to England. Please keep an eye on the government website for any updates to requirements.

Even if you are a British citizen, or have received a Covid vaccine, you must have proof of a negative test result before you travel to England.

You must take your test 3 days before your direct transportation to England departs. For example, if you’re travelling to England on Thursday, you must take your test on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday before departure.

Here is a useful video explaining the requirements:

Can I take my test in the UK if my trip is less than 3 days?

Yes, you must use a private provider like Medicspot. You cannot use the NHS Covid testing service. Please book your test here.

For example, if you are travelling abroad on Wednesday and are departing to return to England on Thursday, you could take your test in the UK on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (prior to departure).

Do I need to take the test?

Yes, everyone travelling to England must take a Covid test 3 days before departing directly for England and have evidence of a negative test result. 

If you don’t have evidence of a negative test result, you may not be able to board your transport to England. If you arrive in England without proof of a negative test result, you may be fined. Please see the government website for more information.

When do I need to take the test?

You must take your test 3 days before your direct transportation to England departs. For example, if you’re travelling to England on Thursday, you must take your test on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday before departure.

What if I am changing flights, or stopping over. Where do I take the test?

The test needs to be taken in the country where you are before the last leg of your journey. For example, if you take a plane from Cuba and change planes in France, you need to take your test in France. If you don’t do this, you may be fined when you arrive in the UK.

Do I need a test if I’m a British resident?

Yes, you must take a test even if you are a British resident. 

Do I need a test if I’m a British citizen?

Yes, you must take a test even if you are a British citizen. The testing strategy is for everyone, regardless of nationality.

Do I need to test if I’ve received a Covid vaccine?

Yes, you must take a test even if you have received a Covid vaccination, because the vaccines do not give 100% protection. As more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the risks reduce, so this advice may change in future.

Do I need to test if I have antibodies?

Yes, you must take a test even if you have antibodies, because antibodies do not guarantee you cannot catch coronavirus again.

Do I need to print out my test results?

You need to provide proof of your negative test result. This could be printed or shown as an email or text message on your phone - don’t forget to keep it charged, and have a back up (such as a friend’s phone, or spare copies).

How do I provide proof of my test results?

You can provide evidence of your test results with a print out of your test results or by showing a text message or email on your phone. Remember to make sure that your result has all the required information on it (name, date of birth [or age], date of test, the result, name and contact details of the test provider and details of the device used [or statement that it was a PCR test]).

What happens if I don’t have proof of a negative test result?

If you don’t have evidence of a negative test result, you might not be allowed to board your transport back to England. If you arrive in England without proof of a negative test result, you could be fined. Please see the government website for more information.

Where can I take my covid test?

You can take a test in the country you start your journey, or in another country that you pass through, on your way back to England.

Medicspot is in the process of launching a service to support these testing requirements. Please register your interest here.

What if I can’t get into a country that I’m passing through to be tested?

If you’re planning to get tested in a country you’re travelling through on your way to England, you must check that you’re able to enter the country and be tested before your trip. Some countries have travel restrictions in place so please check before you make your plans.

If you don’t have evidence of taking a test because you were unable to enter a country that you were planning to be tested in on your journey back to England then you will be able to board your transport to England. However, you could be fined on your return to England for not having proof of a negative test result. Please see the government website for more information.

What if I travel from a country where I cannot get a test?

You will need to check the latest government guidance on this, but there are some exceptions, such as when it is not reasonably possible to be tested for coronavirus before travelling. Myanmar, due to the political situation, is one such country. 

What type of test can I take?

You need to find a reputable private test provider like Medicspot to provide your test. The test must meet the WHO (World Health Organisation) performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

Compatible tests include:

  • A nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
  • An antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device (the pregnancy-test type)

It’s the traveller’s responsibility to confirm that the test provider meets these requirements so you must check with the test provider before you use their service. You may not be able to travel if your test doesn’t meet these requirements.

What information needs to be included in my proof of test results?

Your test results must be in English, Spanish or French. You need to have the original test result notification and it must include your name (as it appears on your passport), date of birth or age, test result, the date the test sample was taken (note that this is often different to the date of the test result), name and contact details of the test provider and confirmation of the device used for the test or that the test was a PCR test.

If your test result doesn’t include this information then you might not be able to board your transport to England. If your test result evidence doesn’t include this information then you might be fined on your arrival in England.

What if I test positive?

You are not allowed to travel to England if you test positive for Covid-19. You can find out more about local rules for positive test results here.

What if my test is inconclusive?

You will need to take another test and will only be able to travel to England if you have evidence of a negative test result.

Do children need to take a test?

Children under 11 do not need to take a test. Please see the government website for the latest rules.

What if I just go for the weekend?

If you are returning within 72 hours of departing from the UK, you will need to ensure that you have a test taken before you leave the UK. This cannot be an NHS test, it must be from a government approved, UKAS accredited Covid-19 testing provider, such as Medicspot.

Are there medical reasons for not needing a test?

Please see the government website for the latest rules but if you are travelling for, or accompanying someone travelling for, urgent medical treatment then you might not need to take a test. You might not need to take a test if you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing so but please check government guidelines before travelling.

Do I need to take a test when travelling from all countries?

Generally, yes, but there are some exceptions. These include: Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey, Ascension, and Falkland Islands. This list is always changing so please check the government website before travelling.

How can I check if my job is exempt from testing when travelling to England?

Jobs that are not required to take a test include:

  • Customs and border officials
  • Channel tunnel system workers
  • Hauliers
  • Rail, maritime and air crew
  • Civil aviation inspectors
  • People transporting blood products and human cells
  • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • Specialist technical workers - services and goods

In limited circumstances, these jobs can be exempt:

  • Government contractors, visiting forces and defence personnel
  • Foreign government officials
  • UK government officials conducting essential policing, essential government work or essential state business

Once again, please confirm job exemptions here before travel as the rules are liable to change.

Do I need to complete a passenger locator form before travelling to England?

Yes, everyone is required to complete a passenger locator form before travelling to England, without exception.

By Dr Adam Abbs

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Medicspot is a government-approved provider of private Covid-19 testing.

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