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Cheaper Covid tests for vaccinated international arrivals

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Written by: Emma Lunn
15/10/2021
The government is changing the rules on the coronavirus testing regime for people entering the UK from 24 October.

From this date, fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18s arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper lateral flow test, on or before day two of their arrival into the UK.

The cost of PCR tests for arrivals into the UK has been widely criticised amid concerns that private firms on the government’s approved list are misleading customers about prices, not giving refunds when due and sometimes not providing a service at all.

The change will come into effect for those returning from half-term breaks with lateral flow tests, which offer faster results, available to book through private providers listed on Gov.uk. The list of approved private providers will go live on 22 October.

Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider as NHS Test and Trace tests cannot be used for international travel.

Passengers will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test and booking reference supplied by the private provider and send it back to verify the result. Passengers are also able to book to have a test which they can take on their arrival into the UK at testing centres located in some airports.

The government says it is able to make this change due to the success of the vaccination programme both in the UK and around the world.

Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus after arriving in the UK will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test. PCR tests can be accessed free of charge by ordering through NHS Test and Trace or by calling 119.

Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you’re travelling for work or visiting friends and family. Lateral flow tests will be available later this month for those returning from half term holidays.

“This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination programme, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus.”

Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, said: “Today’s rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people across the country who are looking forward to well-earned breaks for this October half term.

“Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence.”

All travellers must complete a Passenger Locator Form prior to travel, including a test booking reference number supplied by a testing provider.

Eligible travellers vaccinated in more than 100 countries and territories including Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey, will be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated UK residents.

This means they will be eligible for the quarantine exemption and reduced testing measures, including taking just a lateral flow test on arrival.

Passengers who are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine returning from a non-red destination must still take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight test and complete 10 days self-isolation (with the option of Test to Release on day five).

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