The UK has become the latest country to tighten its testing regime in light of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
From 4 a.m on Tuesday 7 December 2021 (GMT), travellers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result (ART/PCR) taken within 2 days of departure to the UK. This is in addition to the existing requirement to take a “day 2 test” upon arrival and isolate until a negative result is received.
Pre-departure test now required for travel to UK
|⚕️ Testing Regime for Travel to UK|
|Before 7 Dec 2021||From 7 Dec 2021|
|Pre-departure test||N/A||ART/ PCR within 2 days of departure^|
|On-arrival test||PCR within 2 days of arrival*||PCR within 2 days of arrival*|
|^Children aged 11 and below exempt|
*Children aged 4 and below exempt
Currently, there is no pre-departure test required to travel to the UK, provided you are fully vaccinated and have not been in a red list country.
This will change from 4 a.m on Tuesday 7 December 2021 (GMT), when all travellers aged 12 and above must present a negative ART/PCR test result taken within 2 days of departure.
|❓ ART vs Lateral Flow Test?|
|The UK government’s website refers to a “lateral flow test” or “LFD”, but it’s basically the same as a rapid antigen test. I’m using the “ART” term because it’ll be more familiar to those in Singapore.|
Now, many websites are reporting this as a “48 hour” requirement, which is incorrect. The requirement is “2 days”, which actually works out to as much as 72 hours in certain scenarios.
Here’s how the UK government illustrates the testing window:
Notice how you can take the test “any time” in the 2 days before the service on which you will arrive in the UK departs.
To illustrate, if your flight departs at 8 p.m on 18 December 2021, you can take the test anytime from 12 a.m on 16 December 2021. In theory, you could do the test as early as 72 hours in advance, assuming you test at 12 a.m on 16 December 2021 and your flight departs at 11.59 p.m on 18 December 2021.
Of course it doesn’t really matter since most people will go for the cheaper ART option, the results of which should be back in less than an hour. You can even integrate testing into your departure process by visiting the Raffles Medical Clinic at B2 of Changi Terminal 3, which opens 24 hours a day.
Antigen tests at Raffles Medical cost S$30, but you can get 10% off by visiting this page and entering the code SIARMGART at check-out.
For other pre-departure swabbing options, refer to the article below.
Existing requirements still apply
Travellers to the UK will still be subject to existing requirements, namely:
- Complete a passenger locator form online within 48 hours before arrival in the UK
- Take a COVID-19 PCR test* by the end of day 2 following arrival in the UK (the day of arrival is day 0) and isolate until a negative result is received
*children aged 4 and under are exempt
With regards to (1), do note that you’ll need to purchase your Day 2 test and enter the reference number to complete the passenger locator form.
With regards to (2), the simplest solution for London-bound travellers is to do the test at Heathrow on arrival (since it can be done anytime before the end of day 2). Here’s an idea of pricing and turnaround times.
|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”|
|Halo||Sofitel London Heathrow||£59||7 a.m to 6 p.m: Within 5 hours|
Others: By 6 a.m next day
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.
The government have set a qualifying criteria for acceptable Day 2 tests, as it stands now Rapid PCR does not qualify in it’s current form and is therefore not yet approved for Day 2 arrival.
— Collinson (@Collinson) November 29, 2021
Update: You can also purchase a 5-hour day 2 test via this link for £149. Thanks to Polo on the comments for pointing this out.
Once you’ve done your on-arrival test, you must 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.
VTL testing requirement has been tightened
If you’re planning to travel to the UK (or any other VTL country for that matter), you’ll also face stricter testing requirements on return to Singapore.
From 3 December 2021
From 3 December 2021, travellers arriving on the VTL scheme need to undergo supervised, self-administered ART swabs at a Quick Test Centre on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival (the day you enter Singapore counts as Day 1).
|Before 3 Dec 2021||From 3 Dec 2021|
|Pre-departure test||ART/PCR within 2 days||ART/PCR within 2 days|
These must be done by 2130 hours (Singapore time) on the relevant days, and instructions will be emailed to travellers on arrival in Singapore.
There is no need to isolate while awaiting the results of the Day 3 and 7 ART swabs (which will anyways be rather fast, given they’re the ART variety). These tests will cost S$15 each, and must be done at one of the venues below.
Children aged 2 and below in this calendar year are not required to undergo Day 3 and Day 7 ARTs. Children aged 3 to 12 must be accompanied by a caregiver, aged 21 years old and above. The caregiver may be required to help administer the test if the child is unable to do so.
There is no requirement that you stay in Singapore for at least seven days between your trips. You are excused from testing if the scheduled time of departure of your flight is before 2130 hours on the day of test.
From 7 December 2021
From 7 December 2021, travellers arriving on the VTL scheme will be put on a daily testing regime over seven days using ART.
|☝️ What about entry before 7 December?|
|Travellers who have entered Singapore between 3 December 2021 and 6 December 2021 (inclusive) are not required to undergo the self-administered ARTs on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 of their arrival, but will continue to be required to take the supervised self-administered ARTs at QTCs or CTCs on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival.|
This includes the Day 3 & 7 supervised swabs mentioned above, as well as Day 2, 4, 5 and 6, unsupervised swabs, done at home. These must be done before going out for activities on that day.
Travellers must submit their results from Days 2, 4, 5 and 6 online using a link which will be emailed to them on arrival. Needless to say, the authorities will take a very dim view towards missing a submission- play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Here’s an illustrative testing regime, for a traveller arriving in Singapore on 7 December 2021.
|Within 2 days before departure||On or after 5 Dec 21||Pre-departure ART/PCR|
|1 (arrival)||7 Dec 21||On-arrival PCR (for VTL-Air) or ART (for VTL-Land)|
|2||8 Dec 21||Unsupervised ART|
|3||9 Dec 21||Supervised ART|
|4||10 Dec 21||Unsupervised ART|
|5||11 Dec 21||Unsupervised ART|
|6||12 Dec 21||Unsupervised ART|
|7||13 Dec 21||Supervised ART|
All in all, a round-trip journey from Singapore to the UK will involve a total of 10 COVID-19 tests, of which eight can be the cheaper antigen variety.
|⚕️ VTL Testing Regime|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||2 days before departure (ART/PCR)||From S$21|
|🇬🇧 UK||2 days after arrival|
|🇬🇧 UK||2 days before departure (ART/PCR)||From £32|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||On arrival at Changi (PCR)||S$125|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 2 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 3 (Supervised ART)||S$15|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 4 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 5 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 6 (ART)||S$5|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Day 7 (Supervised ART)||S$15|
That’s a lot of swabbing.
The UK has added a pre-departure testing requirement, which will affect you if you’re planning to fly from 4 a.m on Tuesday 7 December 2021 (GMT) onwards.
If it’s any consolation, you can do the cheaper, faster ART swab instead, which won’t add a lot of additional cost to your trip.
For further questions about the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme, do check out the guide I’ve put together.