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Reduce your travel quarantine with Test to Release

The Test to Release initiative reduces your self-isolation period by getting tested for Covid-19.

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Covid travel certificate and fit to fly certificateTest to Release: 17 FAQs for international travellers

The government introduced the Test to Release programme to reduce the self-isolation period for travellers returning to England. This guide has been updated to reflect the new Test to Release rules from 15 February. Read our day 2 and 8 testing guide for further self-isolation and quarantine updates.

What is Test to Release?

Test to Release is a new initiative for travellers entering England from a country that is not on the travel corridor list. As standard, travellers need to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival from any country that is not on the list. However, from 15th December travellers entering England from countries outside the travel corridor list will be able to end their quarantine period early if they pay for a private Covid-19 test. The test is to be carried out from 5 days after arriving in England. The self-isolation period will only be shortened for negative test results.

Are there any countries banned from Test to Release?

The Government publishes a list of countries for which you are unable to shorten your isolation period with the Test to Release programme. A list of these banned countries is available here.

When can I take the test?

You can only take a test on or after the fifth full day after you arrive in England.

How do I get tested?

Book a test with a government-listed Test to Release provider like Medicspot.

How can I take part in the scheme?

  • Book in your test with a government-listed private test provider like Medicspot.
  • Choose to opt in to the scheme on the government’s passenger locator form

Can I pick up a test early?

No, you can only pick up a test or be tested until on or after the fifth full day after you have landed in England. Book into one of Medicspot’s nationwide testing hubs to get your results next-day.

Can I travel to a coronavirus test centre?

Yes, you are permitted to travel to a Covid-19 testing facility like Medicspot’s nationwide test hubs as part of Test to Release if you live in England and it is 5 or more days since you left a country not on the travel corridor list.

Can I go on public transport to travel to a Covid test centre?

You are advised not to use public transport to go to a Covid-19 test centre, however, it is not illegal to do so.

Do I still need to self-isolate whilst I wait 5 days?

Yes, if you have returned from a country not on the travel corridor list, you must self-isolate until you have received a negative test result or 10 days have passed. You can only take a Covid-19 test 5 days or more after you arrive in England.

Do I still need to self-isolate whilst waiting for my test result?

Yes, you must continue to self-isolate until you have received a negative test result.

What if my test is positive?

If you have not had symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 10 days from your test date. If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started, if earlier than when you took your test.

People you live with or are travelling with should also self-isolate for 10 days from the day you took a test. You may be contacted for contact tracing to check that you, and those who you live or are travelling with, are self-isolating. You must not travel, including to leave the UK, during self-isolation.

Contact 111 if you need medical help. In an emergency dial 999.

What if my test is negative?

If you receive a negative Covid-19 test result when taking part in the Test to Release programme, you may stop self-isolating.

You should self-isolate if:

  • you get symptoms of coronavirus (you should get an NHS coronavirus test and self-isolate until you get the results) 
  • you’re going into hospital (self-isolating until the date you go in)
  • someone you live with tests positive
  • you’ve been traced as a contact of someone who tested positive

For advice on when you might need to self-isolate and what to do, read ‘Self-isolation and treating symptoms’ on the NHS website.

It’s a legal requirement to self-isolate when you arrive in the UK from a non-exempt country, territory or region. If you’re contacted by the enforcement authorities or the police after you have received this negative result please show them this notification.

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 the UK from a non-exempt country, territory or region. You may 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.

What if I travel through a country on the travel corridor list?

If you travel from a country on the travel corridor list through a country that is not on the travel corridor list or if as part of your journey you pass through a country not on the travel corridor list at any time then you still need to self-isolate on your return to England. You can still shorten the self-isolation period through the Test to Release programme. The 5 days before you can be tested as part of the Test to Release programme starts from the time you arrive in England.

Do I still need to self-isolate when returning to England?

Yes, even if you are taking part in the Test to Release programme, you still need to self-isolate when returning to England. You can take your Covid-19 test 5 days after arriving in England. You will need to self-isolate until you have received a negative test result or 10 days have passed.

Do I have to take part in Test to Release?

No, Test to Release is voluntary. You can just self-isolate for 10 days on return from a country not in the travel corridor list. But if you would like to reduce the self-isolation period, you can take part in the scheme and get tested with a government-listed testing provider like Medicspot.

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 living in England.

What if I arrive in England and travel to my home in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

If you arrive in England from abroad and travel to your home in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, Test to Release is not applicable and you will need to follow guidance in those countries. Test to Release is only applicable to those who live in England.

By Dr Adam Abbs. Last updated 16 February 2021.

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