UK VTL: Pre-departure COVID-19 test now required

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Travellers to the UK will need to take a pre-departure test from 7 Dec 2021 onwards, in addition to the existing on-arrival Day 2 test.

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 2021From 7 Dec 2021
Pre-departure testN/AART/ PCR within 2 days of departure^
On-arrival testPCR 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. 

Where’s the cheapest pre-departure COVID-19 ART/PCR test in Singapore?

Existing requirements still apply

Arrivals to the UK will still need to take the day 2 test

Travellers to the UK will still be subject to existing requirements, namely:

  1. Complete a passenger locator form online within 48 hours before arrival in the UK
  2. 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.

ProviderTerminalPriceResults
ExpressTest by CignpostT2, T3, T4, T5£69By 10 p.m next day
RandoxRadisson Blu hotel car park£55By 11.59 p.m next day
CollinsonOpp. London Heathrow Marriott£55By 11.59 p.m next day
Heathrow Medical
Near T5
£55“Next day turnaround”
HaloSofitel London Heathrow£597 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.

However, Head for Points has identified an alternative provider called The Regenerative Clinic, which offers 3-4 hour results for £399.

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.

As a reminder, Singapore tightened its VTL testing regime for arrivals from 3 December 2021 onwards, and will further tighten it from 7 December 2021 onwards.

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 2021From 3 Dec 2021
Pre-departure testART/PCR within 2 daysART/PCR within 2 days
On arrivalPCRPCR
Day 3N/AART
(new)
Day 7N/AART
(new)

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.

QTC/CTC Locations
Book Appointment

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. 

DayDateTest
Within 2 days before departureOn or after 5 Dec 21Pre-departure ART/PCR 
1 (arrival)7 Dec 21On-arrival PCR (for VTL-Air) or ART (for VTL-Land)
28 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
39 Dec 21Supervised ART
410 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
511 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
612 Dec 21Unsupervised ART
713 Dec 21Supervised 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
LocationRemarksPrice
🇸🇬 Singapore2 days before departure (ART/PCR)From S$21
🇬🇧 UK2 days after arrival
(PCR)
From £55
🇬🇧 UK2 days before departure (ART/PCR)From £32
🇸🇬 SingaporeOn arrival at Changi (PCR)S$125
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 2 (ART)S$5
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 3 (Supervised ART)S$15
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 4 (ART)S$5
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 5 (ART)S$5
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 6 (ART)S$5
🇸🇬 SingaporeDay 7 (Supervised ART)S$15

That’s a lot of swabbing.

Conclusion

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.

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

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Polo

Did a tone of research. The 3/5 hours results are starting to show up. This one for example.

https://www.privatecoronavirustests.com/page/eurostar-testing.

Polo

You’re very welcome.
– The Regen clinic you mentioned offers 3 hour results to 399 per person by the way!
– Found that one too that offers results in 5 hours. https://fasttestcentre.com/

I think labs are trying to catch up. Like you said it could be an incredible source of profit for them. People willing to pay 400 pounds to avoid staying hotel while traveling to the UK for Christmas!

John

Tried taking the PCR test with Express Test given the convenience of in airport testing. Failed to receive my results by 10pm the next day as promised (as at writing, it’s 1257am and still not received yet). Suggest to avoid.

phister

At this stage with these additional requirements can you really call it a VTL anymore?

Joe

There are no VTL flights to the UK so this latest news is irrelevant. As for the VTL flight to Singapore, doing those tests is preferable to a week SHN, so yes, you can call it VTL.

Last edited 10 months ago by Joe
phister

There is some joy in being deluded I guess.

Joe

How is it deluded for me to say it is preferable to do a few cheap ART tests rather than a week at home doing SHN?

kopi lim

You are deluded in thinking that with all these additional restrictions we can still sanely call this a VTL. On top of that imagine having to take time out at various points in your stay overseas to do possibly multiple tests.

I guess you enjoy having your nostrils violated on a daily basis. Whatever floats your boat then.

Steve

Geez, who urinated in your cornflakes?

The extra test mentioned in the article you are responding to is nothing to do with a VTL flight anyway, there are not VTL flights to the UK.

Last edited 9 months ago by Steve
kopi lim

You’re now arguing about semantics and missing the point.

Guess this is another chap who likes to have appendages inserted into his orifices numerous times on end.

CCW

Not really I would choose SHN at home over taking the VTL any day.

Joe

Well you do that then.

CCW

Absolutely! Already done it once and doing it again, piece of cake!

S L

Switzerland also requires PDT now.

Aiden

So I’m flying into the UK on SQ306 on the 7th but my flight lands at 720am UK time. Does this new pre departure test requirement apply to me? Its not entirely clear from the news releases

Nisha

You can also do a Halo test at Heathrow’s T5 – only around 60 pounds and I got my results in under 4 hours

paul

Would it be burdensome to commute from T2 to T5….unless you have own transportation.

Matthew

You can just take the Heathrow Express over to T5 from T2. Transfers are free

Ryan

Hi!

I was trying to book this on the Halo website but I couldn’t do it, it says “shipping to Singapore is not supported” after I keyed in my Singapore billing address.

Any advice? Did you pre-book or just walked in? I have tried emailing them for an answer too.

Ryan

To anyone that’s keen on booking this. You can use another address for your billing address.
I used the Sofitel hotel address as my billing address.

Do note that now the confirmation email says “results within 24 hours” instead of the “5 hours” on the website. I will share my experience here once it’s done. Fingers crossed!

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