We’re excited to announce that the new mandatory Travel Test Package will be available through Covid Testing Network imminently. Only a handful of private UK laboratories have the capability to deliver the required ‘sequencing’ element of the tests and we’re pleased that, as ever, we’ll be able to offer a very competitive rate.
On 15th February 2021, new legislation came into force in England requiring all international arrivals in quarantine to take a test on or before day 2 (of their quarantine period), for variant surveillance, and a test on or after day 8 (of their quarantine period).
This article is aimed at organisations who are looking to play some role in providing Covid testing for travel to either the general public or for business-purposes.
What are the new testing requirements on day 2 and day 8 for international arrivals?
Everyone permitted to enter England must:
- Quarantine for 10 days
- Take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 of quarantine
- Must quarantine for 10 days and receive a negative result for both day 2 and day 8 tests in order to leave the place they are quarantining.
Providers of testing must therefore be able to offer a ‘Travel Test Package’, which includes:
- A PCR test taken on or before day 2 of quarantine.
- Sequencing of all positive tests taken on day 2 of quarantine for variant surveillance
- A second PCR test taken on or after day 8 of quarantine.
If a positive result is received from the day 2 test, individuals will not be required to take any further tests.
Why has sequencing (variant surveillance) been introduced for travel testing?
Genome sequencing has been added to the rules for travel recently laid out by the UK government in order to identify, monitor and limit the number of variants in the UK population.
Rapid sequencing of positive cases enables immediate mobilization of NHS test and track services directed at preventing the spread of high risk variants in the community. If tests highlight a variant of coronavirus known as a ‘variant of concern’, individuals will receive a call from Track and Trace, and their contacts will be asked to be tested.
What is a mutation or variant, and how does it occur?
Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 evolves over time through random mutations in its genome. Mutations have the potential to increase the virulence of the virus by increasing the transmissibility and/or the severity of the disease (for example in the B.1.1.7 ‘UK variant’, estimated to have first emerged in September 2020, which drove a surge in cases) - a mutated viable virus is commonly referred to as a variant.
Of great concern are variants that may be able to evade the immunity generated by previous infection or by vaccination. If they do occur, this kind of variant will generate new, difficult to control case surges and prolong the current pandemic.
What is Genomic Sequencing?
Diagnostic Covid tests (such as PCR) use a small section of a virus's genetic material to identify its presence or absence in a sample.
However, Genomic sequencing undertaken after a sample returns a Covid-positive result from a PCR (conducted via specialist Labs) maps out the entire SARS-CoV-2 virus genetic code, enabling variant identification.
Testing and sequencing needs to be completed in a short timeframe (72 hours from sampling to reporting the viral genome) in order for information to be effectively actioned, namely identifying and isolating individuals carrying high-risk Covid variants.
How does this affect travel planning?
Everyone permitted to enter England must have proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel to England - this includes UK citizens. The test must be taken in the 3 days prior to departure.
In addition, everyone permitted to enter England must:
- Book and pay for a travel test package, which will include Covid-19 PCR tests to be taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your quarantine
- Complete a passenger locator form with details of where you will quarantine when you arrive and the Travel Test Package booking reference number.
Providing false or deliberately misleading information when completing a passenger locator form is an offence punishable by imprisonment with fines up to £10,000, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both if accurate details are not provided about the countries visited in the 10 days prior to arrival in the UK. Breaking quarantine rules may incur a penalty of up to £10,000.
What hasn’t changed?
Whilst travel abroad is only currently allowed for legally permitted reasons, the rules prior to travel abroad remain unchanged. Where proof of a negative coronavirus test is required to enter another country, you must still use a private test provider. Specifics vary according to individual airlines and destinations - always check government foreign travel advice for the latest information on coronavirus entry requirements and travel warnings for each country.
Test to Release for International Travel continues as before, although a test on day 8 must still be conducted. However, if individuals test positive on day 8, they are required to quarantine for 10 days following the date of test. International arrivals who have been in a ‘red list’ country in the 10 days prior to their arrival may not opt-in to Test to Release.
How can I reserve sequencing capacity?
Due to highly-specialised equipment and cutting-edge techniques, genomic sequencing in the UK is in limited supply and many providers are already reserving capacity.
Travel Test Packages will imminently be available to purchase from private providers and - with laboratories already experienced in genomic sequencing - Covid Testing Network is able to provide an integrated diagnostic test evaluation service to supply the mandatory Day 2 and Day 8 testing at highly competitive rates.
To discuss your specific needs and reserve our laboratory Test & Sequence capacity, click here to contact our General Manager, Abbie, today.
Covid Testing Network is on a mission to help the UK economy recover by getting businesses back to work. We’ve been at the forefront of scientific developments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, providing Covid-19 testing capacity across the UK in partnership with employers across all sectors to keep their staff and customers safe.
We anticipate genome sequencing will become the norm across the board in the UK, not just to monitor international arrivals but to track variants in the general populace. Our exclusive partnerships with laboratories skilled in this highly-technical field, coupled with our experience completing more than 1 million PCR tests spanning care homes, Local Authorities and diligent direct employers, uniquely qualifies us to offer this service.
This article is correct at the time of publishing, however, we do not aim for it to be authoritative nor exhaustive; you should always refer to the most updated government guidance, provided below.
More information for individual travel.
More information for test providers.