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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This guide will help you learn more about the Covid-19 testing requirements needed to enter the UK and the mandatory tests required upon arrival.

Which types of Covid-19 tests are accepted for travel to the UK?

It is your responsibility to find a reputable private test provider like Medicspot to provide your Covid-19 tests for travel. The test must meet the WHO (World Health Organisation) performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. You might not be able to travel if your test doesn’t meet these requirements.

Approved 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). Antigen tests are only accepted to enter certain countries such as the USA, Italy and Germany.

This useful video explains the requirements:

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.

Test before travel (pre-departure)

Medicspot offers a pre-departure antigen test so you can get your results certificate same-day. Order now.

Which Covid-19 tests are required before I travel to Scotland and Wales?

From 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 getting tested before you travel to Scotland or Wales.

Which Covid tests are 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.

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.

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 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. You’ll 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 and you may be fined on your arrival.

What if I test positive?

You are not allowed to travel to England if you test positive for Covid-19. For further guidance on testing positive for Covid-19, please refer to the government website.

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.

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.

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

Please visit the government website for further information on which jobs are exempt from taking a test as these are liable to change.

Antigen testing (lateral flow)

Lateral flow tests, also known as rapid antigen tests, look for proteins produced by the virus called antigens and can give you a test result within 20 minutes.

Are rapid lateral flow tests accepted for travel?

Lateral flow tests are accepted for some travel, e.g. travelling to the USA and is most commonly used to test if you are able to board a flight to return back to the UK. However, it is important to check that the test you are using to travel is accepted by both the airline(s) you’re travelling with, and the country you’re travelling to, before you purchase the test.

Who can get a lateral flow test for travel?

Anyone in England who does not have coronavirus symptoms can get a private rapid lateral flow test provided that they are accepted for travel by your chosen airline and country of destination.

Day 2 and 8 testing

It is compulsory to book and pay for Covid testing to be taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your quarantine. If you passed through or visited a country on the red list 10 days before arriving in England, please follow the UK government guidance. If you do not take these tests upon your arrival to the UK you may receive fines of up to £2,000. Please read the UK government guidance for more details.

When should I order my test?

We recommend ordering your travel test package as soon as possible to guarantee your test kits are reserved for you.

When will my kits be delivered?

You will receive your Day 2 test on the day you arrive in England. You will receive your Day 8 test on the eighth day of your quarantine. We will dispatch your day 2 kit as soon as you order to ensure you have your kit when you arrive in England. Please note, we can only dispatch your kits Monday to Friday so it is important to order the appropriate test kit before you travel.

Do I need to register my kit?

You must register your kit before returning it via Royal Mail. If you have problems registering your kit on a mobile device, please use a desktop computer. If you need further assistance, our dedicated customer service team will be happy to help via live chat.

For more information, go to our day 2 and 8 testing page.

Test to Release

What is Test to Release?

The Test to Release scheme is for those looking to shorten their quarantine period. As standard, travellers need to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival from any country that is not on the travel corridor list.

The test must be provided by an approved private service provider like Medicspot and should be carried out 5 days after arriving in England. This is in addition to the tests that you must take on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your quarantine period.

How can I take part in the scheme?

You can book your test with a government-listed private test provider like Medicspot or you can choose to opt into the scheme on the government’s passenger locator form.

Can I take part in Test to Release if I live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

No, Test to Release is only applicable to people arriving in England.

What if my test is positive?

If the test is positive you need to quarantine for another 10 days. People you live with, or people you are staying with, should also quarantine for 10 days from the date of your positive test.

What if my test is negative?

If your test result is negative you can stop quarantine as soon as you receive the result but you will still need to take your day 8 test.

What if my test is inconclusive or unclear?

If your test result is inconclusive or unclear, it’s not possible to say if you had the virus when the test was done. You must, by law, continue self-isolating for the remainder of your self-isolation period as an international arrival travelling to England from a non-exempt country, territory or region. You might be contacted to check that you are self-isolating. If you want to shorten your self-isolation period you will need to take another test like those provided by Medicspot.

For more information, go to our test to release page.

By Dr Adam Abbs

Order your Covid test to enter the UK

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

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