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Lateral flow tests will replace day 2 PCR tests for vaccinated holidaymakers

Government confirms day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with cheaper antigen tests in time for the October half term holidays

Lateral flow tests will replace day 2 PCR tests for vaccinated holidaymakers

Fully vaccinated arrivals into England can avoid taking PCR tests from 24 October, instead taking a lateral flow test on or before day 2. The change, which applies to those travelling from green list (i.e. ‘rest of world’) countries, comes just in time for half term holidays.

The government has also said under 18s regardless of vaccination status can switch to day 2 lateral flow tests.

All those eligible will still need to purchase tests through private providers (which should not be before 22 October)  you cannot use free NHS tests for travel purposes. Travellers will still need to complete a passenger locator form before travelling and include the booking reference number given by their chosen provider.

To verify the result, travellers will need to upload a photo of their test result and will be offered a free NHS PCR test if the result returned is positive.

The new rules mean holidays abroad will be simpler and cheaper to navigate for many. Day 2 PCR tests can cost between £43 and £90+ per person. In comparison, lateral flows can cost in the region of £23 – £43 per person.

In comparison, those who aren’t inoculated will need to shell out for three tests and self-isolate on return to the UK, including those returning from a green list country.

Testing rules have already been loosened once this month. From 4 October, fully vaccinated arrivals into the whole of the UK were no longer required to take a pre-departure test before travelling from a green ‘rest of world’ country.

Previously, travellers had to take a pre-departure lateral flow test before returning from a green list country, as well as a day 2 PCR test when flying to England. The government has also simplified the traffic light system into a red list and green ‘rest of world’ list.


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When will the day 2 PCR test requirement end for vaccinated holidaymakers?

From 24 October, most inoculated arrivals into England (and most under 18s) can take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR. There is no date confirmed yet for Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland haven’t said they’ll follow suit.

What are the testing and quarantine rules for fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from ‘rest of world’ green list countries to England?

woman at airport
  • No pre-departure test required 
  • You can take a privately purchased lateral flow test instead of a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving into the UK, from 24 October (you cannot use a free NHS lateral flow test)
  • If your lateral flow is positive, you can take a free NHS PCR test to confirm your Covid diagnosis
  • Until 24 October you must take a PCR test on or before day 2 when arriving in England
  • Quarantine is not required

In recent months there’s been a discussion around testing providers failing to return tests on time, as well as those advertising misleading prices. But when the new testing rules come in, unless a destination requires you to take a test on the way there, fully vaccinated residents in England will no longer need to worry about costly PCR tests, instead being required only to take an authorised lateral flow test on return.

Until new rules are in force you’ll need to book a PCR test – find a reliable test provider.

When can I book a cheaper lateral flow day 2 test from?

You can book from 22 October you should not book before. A list of approved providers will be uploaded to gov.uk from this date. Be aware you cannot use this test as a day 2 test until 24 October.

How to report a lateral flow test

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 the provider to verify the result. 

I’ve already booked a PCR test for my holiday in October half term, do I need to book a private lateral flow test instead?

No. You can use your PCR test as planned. Some providers may offer a refund for unused, unopened test kits check the terms and conditions of the company you booked with.

Can I use a free NHS lateral flow test for my day 2 test?

lateral flow test

No. You cannot use free lateral flow NHS tests for travel.

I did not have my vaccine in the UK, can I still use a lateral flow on day 2 instead of a PCR test?

The UK recognises the Oxford/AstraZeneca, the Pfizer BioNTech, Modern and Janssen jabs and proof of vaccination from over 100 countries, which are listed within the government’s Covid guidance online. If your country is not mentioned on this list, you will be considered unvaccinated, and need to follow the test and quarantine rules accordingly.

What are the testing and quarantine rules for fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from ‘rest of world’ green list countries to Scotland?

  • No pre-departure test required 
  • You can take a privately purchased lateral flow test instead of a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving into the UK. You cannot use a free NHS lateral flow test. This update to the rules will take place from later in October date to be confirmed
  • Until a date is confirmed, you must take a PCR test on or before day 2 when arriving in Scotland
  • No quarantine required

What are the testing and quarantine rules for fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from ‘rest of world’ green list countries to Wales and Northern Ireland?

people on plane wearing masks
  • No pre-departure test required 
  • You must book a PCR test on or before day 2 when arriving into Wales or Northern Ireland
  • No quarantine required

What counts as fully vaccinated?

To count as double-jabbed and benefit from the new rules, you must have had your second dose at least two weeks before travelling.

What are the testing and quarantine rules for non-vaccinated holidaymakers returning from ‘rest of world’ green list countries to the UK?

  • Take a pre-departure lateral flow test before flying home to the UK – within 72 hours of your departure time (this must be negative to be permitted to travel)
  • Self-isolate on arrival in the UK for 10 days
  • Take privately purchased day 2 and 8 PCR tests
  • You can pay to take a day 5 test to release to reduce the self-isolation period (in England only)

These rules mean unvaccinated holidaymakers will still have to pay anywhere from around £100 to upwards of £250 for tests, but will be able to isolate at home, rather than in a hotel.

What are the testing and quarantine rules for all travellers returning from red list countries?

You should not travel to red list countries for holidays. However, if you need to travel to the UK from a red list country, all travellers regardless of vaccination status will need to take tests and quarantine in a hotel.

Requirements:

  • Take a pre-departure lateral flow test before flying home to the UK within 72 hours of your departure time (this must be negative to be permitted to travel)
  • Undergo a managed hotel quarantine for 10 days – this costs £2,285 for one adult
  • Take day 2 and 8 tests with no option for a day 5 test to release

Do you need a booster jab to count as fully vaccinated?

woman getting covid vaccine

Some countries including Austria and Croatia have set expiry dates on travellers’ ‘fully vaccinated’ status, meaning in some countries you may no longer be considered eligible for if a certain amount of days have passed since your second dose. Keep an eye on FCDO guidelines to find out your country’s entry requirements. 

Can I travel to all countries on the green ‘rest of world’ list?

No. Just because a country is rated green in the UK, that doesn’t mean you can travel there. Countries have their own specific entry requirements some countries, such as Australia, are not currently allowing British nationals to enter.

I’m not double jabbed and now need to quarantine – what are my cancellation rights?

Under the new rules, if you are not double jabbed with a vaccine that is recognised in the UK, you will be required to quarantine at home on return from a holiday, even if returning from a non-red destination. This may mean that it is no longer feasible for you to travel.

It is unclear how holiday providers will respond to this unexpected scenario. When the UK was operating within the traffic light travel system, many companies were offering unvaccinated travellers refunds or fee-free amendments if their destination moved from the green list to the amber list, requiring them to quarantine. 

They may or may not have extended these policies to include unexpected quarantine under new updates, covering unvaccinated travellers who booked before the requirement to quarantine began. Contact your holiday provider to check their cancellation and rebooking policy.

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