Fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from countries, not on the travel ban red list can take a COVID-19 negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT) instead of the more expensive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test under new rules effective from October 24. Travellers vaccinated in over 100 countries and territories, including India, will also be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated UK residents, the government said.
These eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in England from countries, not on the red list can take an LFT on or before day two of their arrival from October 24, rather than PCR tests.
The LFTs can be booked from October 22 and are largely aimed at families planning a break during the upcoming school holidays at the end of this month. “We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you’re travelling for work or visiting friends and family,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“Lateral Flow Tests will be available later this month for those returning from half-term holidays. This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination programme, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus,” he said. Travellers will be able to order cheaper LFTs from private testing providers as an alternative to a PCR, offering faster results.
The list of approved private providers will go live on GOV.UK later this month. Passengers will need to take a photo of their LFT and booking reference supplied by the private provider and send it back to them to verify the result.
“Today’s rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people across the country who are looking forward to well-earned breaks for this October half term,” said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence,” he said. Those that have already bought a PCR do not need to buy another test.
Under the rules, an arrival test must be taken as soon as possible on or before the second day of a passenger’s arrival in the UK. “Testing, along with vaccines, remains one of our first lines of defence against COVID-19. Getting a test as early as possible on arrival and isolation when necessary, can help control the spread of the virus and protect one another,” said Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
All travellers are required to complete a “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 form from October 22 for arrival in the UK from October 24.
Under the existing system, PCR tests taken on day two after returning to England can cost about 75 pounds per person (USD 102). When the changes come into effect, anyone who receives a positive result from their LFT will be required to self-isolate and take a free "confirmatory" PCR test to confirm that result.
The changes come as the UK continues to record a high level of COVID-19 infections and deaths, with another 45,066 cases and 157 deaths recorded on Thursday.