PCR tests now required for UK due to Omicron variant

Today the guidance on day 2 tests was changed by the UK government. We are updating this article with the latest information as we receive it.

Many people aren’t travelling at the moment because they just don’t want to deal with all the hassle and expense of COVID-19 tests. The UK’s rules can be confusing, especially as the government often changes them at short notice.

But travel is still allowed to and from the UK, so read on to make sure you know the rules, and how to follow them.

What you need to know about day 2 tests – and when they must be booked

  • Everyone arriving into the UK, whether they are vaccinated or not, must do a day 2 test
  • As of 04:00 GMT on 30 November, this test must be a PCR test. You must self-isolate until you have received a negative result

  • You will need your booking reference for your passenger locator form, which can be filled in up to 48 hours before your flight.

  • Therefore, you must book your day 2 test before you arrive at the airport to take your flight to the UK

What is the rule change?

Previously, since 24 October, an antigen or lateral flow test was allowed.

However, this weekend UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that PCR tests will now be required for all arrivals, regardless of vaccination status or country of origin. This is in response to the Omicron COVID-19 strain, which has been labelled by the World Health Organization as a \’variant of concern.\’

Note that the green and amber lists were scrapped on October 4 2021. The red list was entirely removed in October too, but as of this week 10 countries have been re-added to the list.

You can find out more about this here.

The trick most people don\’t know about

Despite the name, you can actually do the test on or before day 2. This rule is stated on the UK government website here.

This means that you can get tested as soon as you land in the UK. Most airports have testing centres, and getting it done when you arrive means you don’t need to worry about doing it on your actual day 2. You could also do it on the way home from the airport, or the next day. But remember you must self-isolate and only leave where you are staying for essential reasons such as testing.

Don’t forget: day 0 is the day you arrive into the UK, then the next day is day 1, and so on.

How do I get a day 2 test?

There are lots of different companies that you can book a test through online. But not all test providers are created equal.

In terms of private providers, some companies offer at-home options sent by mail, or in-person testing. The government has a handy guide about which test might be right for you here.

Remember to make your online booking in time to put the booking reference, which you\’ll receive by email, on your passenger locator form.

Man being tested by a medical providerCanva

Which testing companies should you avoid?

There are company you might want to avoid, for now at least.

On September 24th, the UK Competition and Markets Authority revealed they are investigating Dante Labs for not delivering tests or test results on time or at all, not responding to customer complaints, refusing or delaying to pay refunds and having unfair terms and conditions. The results of their investigation will be revealed in due course.

Don\’t worry, however, if you are already in the process of using Dante for testing. Your results will still be accepted as valid.

The other testing company under investigation is Expert Medicals.

They are similarly being investigated for not sending out tests and results, not responding to customer complaints and refusing to issue refunds when due.

You can find the list of government-approved testing providers here.

Who do I contact for more information?

The UK’s Citizens Advice Bureau can provide support via their website.

You can also email dhsctesttrace.customerfeedbackteam@nhs.net for more advice.

Frequently asked questions

Many of our readers have questions about the UK\’s travel requirements.

We put these questions to the government departments responsible for the rules. Their answers are below.

I wasn’t asked for proof of a negative test, PLF or day 2 test booking when I arrived in the UK. Who is responsible for checking this?

According to the government, airlines are responsible for checking that passengers are following the guidance.

What am I supposed to do with the results of my day 2 test if they are negative?

\”There is no specific guidance on reporting as this is done by laboratories, but passengers must self-isolate for 10 days if they receive a positive test result,\” says the spokesperson.

Does this apply to travellers entering the UK from Ireland?

Irish and British citizens travelling between the UK and Ireland do not count as \’international travellers\’ because of the Common Travel Area.

At the moment, this guidance has not changed and British or Irish citizens travelling from Ireland into the UK are not required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) or take a COVID-19 PCR test.

However, non-British and non-Irish citizens entering the UK are likely to still need a PLF and a PCR test.

The guidance around this is still changing, so we recommend contacting your travel provider for further clarity.

I\’m only in the UK for less than 48 hours – do I still need to book a day 2 test?

Yes – if you\’re travelling from abroad you will still need to book a day 2 test, even if you are in the UK for less than two days.

You will need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), even for a short trip, which requires a day 2 test booking number.

Do I need to book a day 2 test if I am only transferring through the UK?

If you are only coming to the UK to transfer to another country, you will not need to book a day 2 test – as long as you are only in the UK for transit purposes.

If you remain \’airside\’ only, and do not pass through border control, then you do not need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF).

If you are a \’landside\’ transit, and need to pass through border control, you will need to fill out a PLF but still do not need to book a day 2 test.

Instead you will do the following on the form:

  • select ‘Stay in the UK’ under the Your travel plans section
  • reply ‘I will be travelling for an exempt reason’ to the question about whether you are required to self-isolate on arrival
  • select the Exemption options, and then select ‘Transit Exemption’

These rules only apply to fully vaccinated travellers who have not been in red-list countries in the past 10 days. For more information, click here.

Do children need to take a day 2 test?

Yes, children aged 5-17 need to take a day 2 PCR test when arriving into the UK – regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated.

Children aged 17 and under do not need to quarantine, however.

There is more information on travelling with children here.

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