England Introduces “Test-To-Release” 5-Day Quarantine With Negative Covid-19 Test


England is changing the two-week self-isolation requirement for arrivals from countries and regions not on the government’s travel corridor list effective December 15, 2020.

Passengers coming from countries requiring two-week quarantine can opt-in for a test at their expense on or after five days of their arrival. If the test result is negative, the quarantine ends.

You can access the UK Government’s page for Covid-19 and travel here.

Things to note:

– You must note on the Passenger Location Form (PFL) whether you plan to do the test at the 5-day mark or quarantine for two weeks.

– You must pay for the test at a private clinic not to overwhelm NHS’s testing capacity.

Here’s the announcement:

  • testing strategy for passengers arriving into England to be introduced from 15 December
  • 14-day self-isolation period reduced by up to two thirds on receipt of a negative COVID-19 test from a private provider after 5 days of isolation
  • new funding committed to support commercial airports across England as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

Passengers arriving into England will be able to reduce mandatory self-isolation by at least a week, as the government launches its new strategy for testing international arrivals.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today (24 November 2020) announced that from 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test. With those opting in to the scheme having to book and pay for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, we are ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.

Under the ‘Test to release for international travel’ strategy, passengers arriving into England by plane, ferry or train should book their test before they travel; must complete a passenger locator form; and will still need to self-isolate for 5 days before taking a test – rather than taking it at their port of arrival.

The ‘Test to Release’ scheme is announced as the government introduces new financial support for English airports and ground handlers serving them. This support, which will shore up jobs and reinforce local economies, will be available to commercial airports in England. The support will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at up to £8 million per site, and subject to certain conditions. This scheme will open in the new year.

The government has considered the evidence which demonstrates that a test after 5 days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival, as it allows time for the virus, should it be present, to incubate, helping reduce the risk of a false negative result.

Passengers will be able to book a test from a provider on a GOV.UK list before arriving in England. If they choose to book a test, they will need to state this on their passenger locator form prior to arriving and then go straight into self-isolation at home as usual. If they choose to opt in after arrival, they will need to resubmit their passenger locator form.

They can then take a test on or after day 5 of the isolation period either at home or at a private provider’s testing site, and on receipt of a negative result, can immediately finish self-isolating and return to following domestic rules.

Those choosing not to take a test when arriving from a non-exempt country must continue to follow the current self-isolation requirements (2 weeks).

The testing strategy is one outcome of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce report recently presented to the Prime Minister, which also sets out a pathway to restarting the cruise sector.

The recommendations are based on advice from a consortium of expert representatives from the aviation, maritime, international rail, tourism and hospitality industries to boost international travel for all modes, whilst safeguarding public health in the UK.

The government will also continue to work with international partners and representatives across the transport industries to further build on the recommendations in the report, including exploring pre-departure testing pilots with partner countries on a bilateral basis.


I am sure that most arriving in England, we’ll see if other parts of the UK follow, will rather do and pay for the test at a private clinic after five days than to self-isolate for two weeks.

Test at the five-day mark likely captures close to all possible Covid-19 infections that the passenger caught during or before travel.

The problem is that you can take public transportation to your quarantine place, and, at least now, there is not much follow up to ensure that people are not out and about but self-isolating.

It is easier to get a buy-in from the public for a five-day quarantine and a test, rather than two-week isolation that many don’t correctly follow.