UK VTL: England scraps pre-departure COVID tests; no more isolation on arrival

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Good news: Fully vaccinated travellers to England will no longer be required to take pre-departure COVID tests, nor isolate for Day 2 testing.

Last month, the UK authorities tightened the testing regime for international arrivals, requiring travellers to take a pre-departure test and upgrading the post-arrival Day 2 test to a PCR (instead of a lateral flow test aka ART). 

Heathrow Airport arrivals area

But now there’s some good news: travel to the UK (well, at least England and Wales– which for Singapore readers is pretty much the UK since they’ll most likely be entering through London or Manchester) will soon become cheaper and simpler, with the government announcing plans to scrap the pre-departure testing requirement, as well as the need to isolate upon arrival.

From 0400 hours on 7 January 2022, fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England, nor isolate while awaiting the results of their post-arrival Day 2 test (i.e. you have freedom of movement from the moment you land). 

From 0400 hours on 9 January 2022, the Day 2 test requirement will also be eased to allow for lateral flow tests (aka ARTs). You can, of course, continue taking a PCR test if you so please. 

No more pre-departure testing or isolation on arrival

England is scrapping pre-departure testing

Here’s a summary of how the testing regime for fully vaccinated international travellers to England will change.

⚕️Testing Regime for Travel to England
  Pre-departure test Day 2 test
Current ART/ PCR within 2 days of departure^ PCR within 2 days of arrival; isolate until negative result received*
From 7 Jan 0400 hrs N/A PCR within 2 days of arrival; no isolation*
From 9 Jan 0400 hrs N/A PCR/ART within 2 days of arrival; no isolation*
^Children aged 11 and below exempt
*Children aged 4 and below exempt

For arrivals from 7 January 2022, 0400 hours (GMT+8), the requirement to take a pre-departure ART/PCR test will be scrapped. Fully vaccinated arrivals will instead take a Day 2 PCR test (this test can be done anytime from arrival (Day 0) to Day 2),  with the requirement to isolate until a negative result is received removed. 

For arrivals from 9 January 2022, 0400 hours (GMT+8), fully vaccinated arrivals will also have the option of taking a cheaper lateral flow test (what we call an ART) for their Day 2 Test.

As before, travellers must continue to:

  • Book their on arrival tests before travelling to the UK
  • Complete a passenger locator form online within 48 hours before arrival in the UK

The passenger locator form will require details of your Day 2 Test, so be sure to book that test before completing the form.

In accordance with existing guidelines, most test providers will still be offering Day 2 PCR tests. You may need to wait a day or so for websites to be updated to reflect lateral flow pricing (Randox, shown below, has already updated their website).

Randox Day 2 Lateral Flow Test option

A list of Day 2 test providers can be found on this government website. 

I’d recommend bookmarking this page by MoneySavingExpert, which provides a comprehensive overview of the cost of COVID-19 ART/PCR tests in the UK.

What if I’ve already booked a Day 2 PCR test?

PCR tests will still be accepted for Day 2 testing, so there’s no need to change your plans…but I imagine most people wouldn’t want to pay more than they have to!

If you’re arriving after 9 January 2022, 0400 hours, contact your testing provider to see what your options are. Based on past practice, most providers exercise flexibility in this area, allowing customers to switch between PCR and lateral flow test (or vice versa) as regulations dictate.

Some (such as The Regenerative Clinic, shown below) have already pre-empted such requests by providing an easy link on their website to switch from PCR to lateral flow testing, with the difference credited to your original mode of payment. 

Certain airlines & airports still require a pre-departure test

If you’re flying with Etihad, you’ll need a negative pre-departure COVID test, regardless of destination

While the UK may be scrapping its pre-departure test requirement, do note that certain airlines and airports may require a negative pre-departure test, even if your final destination does not require it. 

For example, Etihad Airways has a blanket COVID testing requirement that applies to all passengers, regardless of destination. 

To keep everyone protected on board, you must have a COVID-19 PCR test before every Etihad Airways flight.

If you’re flying to Abu Dhabi as your final destination, take your test 48 hours before your flight departure time. Some exemptions apply.

For all other destinations, your test must be carried out 48 or 72 hours ahead of your flight departure time. This will depend on where you’re flying to or from and your transit time.

Likewise, Hong Kong Airport requires all transit passengers to present a negative pre-departure test as well. This effectively means that Cathay Pacific has a mandatory pre-departure test requirement. 

All passengers who board a flight from overseas places and Taiwan for transit/transfer at Hong Kong should present negative result proof of a recognised PCR-based nucleic acid test for COVID-19 within 48 hours, including documentary proofs that the lab is ISO15189 accredited or Government recognized.

Such requirements supercede those of your final destination, so take note!

Singapore-UK VTL testing regime

Supervised swabbing at QTC

Singapore recently extended its daily testing regime for VTL arrivals by a further four weeks to 30 January 2022.

In addition to a PCR test on Day 1, VTL travellers must take supervised self-administered ART swabs on Days 3 & 7, plus unsupervised ART swabs with self-test kits on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6. 

The Day 1 PCR test will be conducted at Changi Airport (land VTL travellers will take an ART instead at the checkpoint), and costs S$125 per person. Following the test, VTL travellers must proceed directly to their accommodation and isolate until a negative result is received.

Day 3 and 7 tests will be conducted under supervision at a Combined Test Centre (CTC) or Quick Test Centre (QTC). These cost S$15 per person per visit, and remember to book an appointment before heading down.

QTC/CTC Locations
Book Appointment
Children aged 3 to 12 must be accompanied by a caregiver aged 21 years old and above for supervised ART swabbing. The caregiver may be required to help administer the test if the child is unable to do so.

Day 2, 4, 5 and 6 tests will be unsupervised and done at home with an approved self-test kit, which costs roughly S$5 each.

Tests must be done before going out for activities on that day (needless to say, you still need to take the test even if you intend to stay home the whole day!), and results submitted via the portal below:

Report ART result (Land)
Report ART result (Air)

If the traveller’s day of departure from Singapore is on the day of the test, they are exempted from taking their scheduled ART on that day. The traveller’s day of departure from Singapore is defined as the scheduled day of departure of their flight or ferry, or the day they clear departure immigration if they depart by land.

With the latest changes, here’s the testing regime that travellers on the Singapore-UK VTL can expect. 

⚕️ VTL Testing Regime
Location Remarks Price
🇬🇧 UK 2 days after arrival
(ART/PCR)*
From £18.95
🇬🇧 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
*ART only permitted from 9 January 2022, 0400 hours

A total of nine COVID-19 tests must be done, of which only one (the arrival in Changi) needs to be the more expensive PCR variety. 

Conclusion

Travellers to England and Wales (and hopefully Scotland and Northern Ireland soon) will no longer need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, nor isolate on arrival while awaiting their Day 2 test results. This means you’ll have freedom of movement from the moment you land-crucial for both business travellers and holidaymakers alike. 

The downgrading of Day 2 tests to the cheaper lateral flow versions will also result in additional cost savings, and the UK is effectively back to its pre-Omicron testing stance. 

My hope is that we’ll see further relaxation of the testing regime on the Singapore side, but the existing rules look likely to stay in place even beyond 30 January. 

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

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Liz

Hi Aaron, thank you for sharing.

I totally agree with your last paragraph. PDT taken overseas may be negative but PCR at Changi Airport proved otherwise in a very small percentage of arrivals.

asprino

Anyone had success doing one test to satisfy both the day 2 (arrival requirement) and PDT for return to SG?

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