Travelers to England were originally required to provide a negative Covid-19 result before boarding the flight to London from January 15, 2021. The requirement was announced less than 72 hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.
The start date has now, however, moved from Friday to Monday (4 AM on January 18, 2021) based on the fact that many travelers could not have got tested with practically any advance notice.
You can access the UK Government’s page for travel information here.
Here’s the update from the UK government:
If you are arriving in England before 4am on 18 January 2021, you are under no legal obligation to get a test before you travel. You should not be denied boarding for failing to provide proof of a negative test result, and will not be fined on arrival into England.
We still encourage you to comply with this guidance and get a test if possible.
From 4am on 18 January 2021, if you do not present proof of a negative test result, you may not be able to board and could be fined £500 on arrival into England.
Take a coronavirus test before you travel to England
From 4am on Monday 18 January 2021, you must have proof of a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test to travel to England.
You must take a test even if:
- you are a UK citizen
- you are coming from a country on the travel corridors list
You must take the test in the 3 days before you start your journey to England.
For example, if you travel on Friday, you must take a test no earlier than Tuesday.
You will need to present the proof of your negative test before you board to travel to England.
If you don’t present proof of a negative test result certificate, you may not be able to board any form of transport to travel to England.
If you arrive in England without proof of a negative test result, you could be fined £500.
Test providers and type of test
You will need to find a test provider. You must make sure that the test provider can meet the standards for pre-departure testing.
The test must:
- meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml
- this could include tests such as:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.
You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards. It is your responsibility to ensure you get the right test that meets the above requirements.
Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.
If you take your test in the UK, ahead of a return journey of less than 3 days, you must use a private test provider. You cannot use an NHS Test and Trace test.
Information that the test result must include
Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate. It must include the following information:
- your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and their contact details
- the name of the test device
If the test result does not include this information you may not be able to board, and may not be able to travel to England. If you arrive without a test result that includes this information, you will be committing a criminal offence and could receive a £500 fine.
Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone. Make sure that your device is charged.
Positive test results
If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.
If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.
British nationals who need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.
Getting a test in a country you transit through
It is your responsibility to make sure you have a valid test result to show when you board. You should not rely on being able to get a test in a country that you will transit through as part of your journey to England. It is possible that local or entry restrictions will mean you are not able to get a test.
If you don’t have a test result because you were unable to get one in a country you transited through, and you are not permitted to enter the transit country, you will be allowed to board your transport to England. But you could be fined £500 on arrival in England for not having a valid test result.
Exemptions – people who don’t need to take a test
Travel from some countries
You do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:
- Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
- Ascension, Falkland Islands, St Helena
For a limited time period, you also do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:
- Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados (until 4am Thursday 21 January 2021 – you will need a test to travel on or after this date)
Children and medical reasons
Children aged under 11 do not need to take a test.
You do not need to take a test if you are travelling to the UK:
- for urgent medical treatment or are accompanying someone who is travelling for urgent medical treatment, and it is not reasonably practicable for you to obtain a negative COVID-19 test in the 3 days before departure
- if you have a medical condition which means you cannot take a test – you must present a note from a medical practitioner at check in and to Border Force staff on arrival in England
People doing the following jobs do not need to take a test:
- border and customs officials
- channel tunnel system workers
- air, maritime and rail crew
- civil aviation inspectors
- people transporting human cells and blood products
- seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
- specialist technical workers doing emergency works
Also, in limited circumstances:
- defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
- foreign government officials
- UK government officials conducting essential state business, essential government work or essential policing
Read more details of these job exemptions to see if they apply to you.
Passenger locator form
You must complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England.
Self-isolating when you arrive in the UK – travel corridors
Even though you have provided a negative test for entering the country, you must follow the rules for self-isolating when you arrive in England.
If you have been somewhere that is not on the travel corridors list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you will need to self-isolate, regardless of your pre-departure test result. Read more about travel corridors and how long you need to self-isolate.
Test to Release scheme
You may opt into the Test to Release for International Travel scheme to shorten your self-isolation period.
The scheme is not available to anyone who has been in or through South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the 10 days before arrival in England.
This list is kept regularly under review and therefore is subject to change. Travellers should continue to check the guidance for the latest details.
Published 13 January 2021
It is left for the airlines to enforce these various entry requirements, which change with no notice, and now often require a negative Covid-19 test.
Few countries accept a positive test result from the previous three to six months at least two weeks after it was issued, and some antigen test that you had a covid and now have antibodies in your blood.
I guess that the main purpose of these requirements is to further lower demand for international travel rather than stop the spread of the Covid-19 itself.