Find out which rules have changed, what it means for vaccinated and unvaccinated arrivals, and where to buy fast-track day 2 PCR tests.
What are the changes?
On the 27th of November UK PM Boris Johnson announced a change in the entry requirements for the UK in response to the new Covid-19 Omicron variant . This entailed the rapid reactivation of the Red list, with 10 southern African countries added to the list. Additionally — in a move that has impacted the highest number of travelers — fully vaccinated arrivals must take a day 2 PCR test on or before the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they’ve received a negative result. This is to contain and monitor the spread of the new variant and so that positive arrival tests can be sequenced, which is not possible to do from lateral flow tests.
The revised day 2 PCR test mandate came into effect on 30th November.
What does this mean for me if I am fully vaccinated?
Previously, fully vaccinated arrivals did not need to isolate upon arrival to the UK, and could take a cheaper day 2 lateral flow test. Even though these tests are colloquially called “Day 2” tests, they can actually be taken anytime between day 0 (the day of arrival in England) and on day 2.
Importantly, arriving passengers now need to isolate until they receive a negative result. This means that — for many arrivals — taking the test as soon as possible after arrival or finding fast-track testing providers is now essential in order to leave isolation at the earliest opportunity.
What does this mean for me if I am an unvaccinated adult?
The rules remain the same for unvaccinated arrivals into the UK, as they still need to isolate for 10 days, and take PCR tests on day 2 and 8 after arrival, with the possibility of exiting quarantine early via the day 5 Test to Release scheme.
Where can I get fast day 2 PCR test results?
Until this weekend there was little demand for a fast turnaround time on day 2 tests, as fully vaccinated passengers did not need to isolate. We know that many providers are working hard to reduce their day 2 PCR turnaround time, however, the majority of providers are not yet able to offer this service. Here are a few of the first providers, sourced from our comparison service, who offer same day results, guaranteed next day results, or fast-track / express results:
Assured Screening results same day for £129
The Regenerative Clinic Express 3-4 hours results for £399
Corona Test Centre results same day for £99
ExpressTest results by 10pm next day from £69
At CTN we present guidance for arrival testing (including day 2 PCR providers) as you work through our comparison tool:
We anticipate that many more providers will begin offering faster turnaround times for day 2 tests in the coming weeks.
In the last few days we’ve received a high volume of questions from visitors to our site asking for the fastest results possible for day 2 tests. After the government announcement on Saturday, searches for day 2 PCR tests increased more than 10-fold compared with the previous week. The majority of people are looking for in-clinic tests, indicating the desire for fast turnaround results to avoid spending extended time in isolation. Naturally, this is unlikely to be due to an increase in arrivals to the UK and is instead a result of the new demand to minimise isolation.
It’s worth remembering that there are a variety of options if you’re able to isolate for longer or if tests with the fastest turnaround are outside your budget:
- Airport and clinic testing: this is the best option for business travellers and those who need to leave isolation as soon as possible (e.g. short-term holidaymakers to the UK). The clinic is responsible for getting your sample to the lab, and some clinics even have labs on-site. You can either get tested at the airport when you arrive, or you can find a clinic close to your isolation address, which may have higher availability than airport clinics. You are permitted to leave isolation to go to a clinic.
- Home: these tests are still permitted and are likely the best option for UK residents returning home, who can easily isolate without time-pressure. Home tests are often cheaper than in-clinic, and some providers even offer ‘drop-boxes’, so that your aren’t reliant on the post, and hopefully your sample arrives at the lab quicker.
Easily compare providers and prices for these options using our comparison tool:
Written by Isabel Barrios Pérez-Coca
Published on 02/12/2021
The information within this article including quoted prices is accurate at the time of publishing.
Information about testing requirements, entry requirements to the UK and travelling abroad during Covid-19 is CTN’s understanding of the requirements from multiple sources including the UK Government website at the time of publishing - always check full requirements including mandatory documentation and quarantine rules before you travel!
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