UK VTL: COVID-19 PCR test on arrival and self-isolation now required

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From 0400 on 30 November 2021, travellers to the UK must do a PCR test on or before day 2, and isolate until a negative result is received.

The new COVID-19 Omicron variant has come as a bit of a sucker punch to those with year-end travel plans.

Obviously travel to South Africa is now off the table, but we’ve seen other countries tighten their border measures as well. Just last night, it was announced that international travellers to Sydney and Melbourne would be required to self-isolate for 72 hours upon arrival.

Now the UK has announced stricter measures that take effect from 0400 hours on Tuesday, 30 November 2021. All international arrivals must self-isolate on arrival, until they can produce a negative PCR test result from their day 2 test. 

Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too disruptive for those of you planning to head over. 

PCR test and self-isolation upon arrival in UK

Self-isolation will now be required upon entry into the UK until a negative on-arrival result is produced

Even before Omicron came on the scene, the UK already had what’s called the “day 2 test”, which required overseas arrivals to do a COVID-19 test on or before day 2. This could either be a PCR test, or the cheaper ART variety (referred to as a rapid lateral flow test in the UK). 

From 0400 hours on Tuesday, 30 November 2021, this will change as follows:

  Current Upcoming
Test Type Lateral Flow /PCR PCR only
Timeline On or before day 2 On or before day 2
Self-isolation  Not required Required until negative result received

As you can see, they’re tightening the type of test that can be done (PCR only), and adding a self-isolation requirement until a negative result is received. 

Despite the name, you can do the day 2 test on or before day 2, which means you could take it as soon as you get off the plane. In fact, that’s probably the least disruptive to your overall travel plans. 

Here’s some options at or around London Heathrow Airport.

Provider Terminal Price Results
ExpressTest by Cignpost T2, T3, T4, T5 £69 By 10 p.m next day
Randox Radisson Blu hotel car park £55 By 11.59 p.m next day
Collinson Opp London Heathrow Marriott £55 By 11.59 p.m next day
Heathrow Medical
Near T5
£55 “Next day turnaround”

You may wonder why we’re not seeing express PCR options for day 2 tests, which should logically be in high demand given they could set you free in as little as a couple of hours. According to Collinson, its rapid PCR option does not qualify in its current form, and I’d assume the same would hold for many other mass-testing providers.

However, Head for Points has identified an alternative provider called The Regenerative Clinic, which offers results before midnight on the same day for £99. Every little bit helps, I suppose. 

Once you’ve done your test, proceed directly to your place of accommodation and isolate until the results are out. There is no restriction on the type of transport you can take, although the UK Gov says “only use public transport if you have no other option”.

A full guide to dos and don’ts for self-isolation can be found here. 

Conclusion

Travellers to the UK can expect tightened testing requirements from next week, although it won’t be nearly as disruptive to your plans as the ones imposed by Australia. If you can afford the cost, taking a rapid PCR test at the airport could have you free in less than 3 hours. 

The UK will also be reimposing the mask requirement in shops and public transport, although it will exempt hospitality settings. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Tim

jusging from the way you phrase things, arrival date is day 1, yes?

Tim

Nevermind arrival is day 0 as per the self-isolation link

D K

Hi Aaron, can I clarify – with these new restrictions, can travelers who booked tickets earlier to the affected countries choose to cancel or reschedule their air miles redemption tickets? Will any penalty or fees be imposed?

Tom

Really?I got charged cancellation fees cos SQ’s site wasnt letting me change segments, and their phone lines are down ha

Spiderman

Hi Aaron, this post is helpful, thanks. After looking at PCR test links you shared, it seems like we have to wait to the private test providers to update their website if we want to the book the PCR test with the fastest results (same day or within 3 hours). At the time of writing this message, it seems that the fastest PCR test is limited only for departures from the UK rather than arrivals. When do you think the private test providers would update their website to allow incoming visitors into the UK to book the PCR test with… Read more »

asprino

There has been concern about whether the labs can cope with the sudden increase of arrival tests required. Hope they can do it at the same cost!

asprino

There has been concern about whether the labs can cope with the sudden increase of arrival tests required. Hope they can do it at the same cost!

Sam G

@aaron these rules are initially for 3 weeks. So worth anyone who arrives later waiting a bit longer may be sensible to see if it goes back to LFT (highly likely it’ll be extended I imagine but you never know !)

Andy

Any idea how would a transit (<24 hours) look like based on the new rules?

Jenn Tan

Hi Aaron, I had previously booked the lateral flow kit for Day 2 upon arriving in UK. Thus the kit is now useless to me. I need to book for PCR instead and was searching thru the list of providers via the Gov.uk and while browsing thru, some providers offered Day 2 Home PCR test with free delivery. The more I read, the more confused I got. In Singapore, PCR needs to be done at the clinic – requires a medical professional to perform the swabbing. But over here I’m being asked if I wanted a Day 2 home PCR… Read more »

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