Arrivals into the UK can now take a cheaper, lateral flow test.
From tomorrow (October 24) fully vaccinated arrivals into the United Kingdom including children over five years can take a lateral flow test rather than a PCR test.
The advantages of this are that lateral flow tests, also known as antigen tests, are cheaper and turn around results almost instantly, rather than the 24-hour wait for PCR results. They can also be taken at home.
The change comes in time for the country’s autumn school break and the travel industry is hoping it will provide a late season boost with families no longer encumbered by expensive PCR testing requirements.
Those travelling into the UK from countries that are not on the UK’s red list (different regulations apply to the seven areas that remain on the red list) must take an arrivals test.
Often referred to as the ‘Day Two’ test, arrivals testing can actually take place at any time between arrival and day two. In fact, it’s recommended to test as soon as possible after entering the UK.
But what does the new testing system mean for travellers?
As with the PCR test, lateral flow tests must be pre-booked and paid for prior to arrival and the booking confirmation reference included on the UK’s Passenger Locator form, which must be filled out by every traveller returning to the UK.
Unfortunately the NHS lateral flow tests, which were being handed out free-of-charge earlier this year, cannot be accepted for travel purposes. If a positive result is recorded, travellers can however take a free PCR test at an NHS drive- or walk-through testing centre - booking and location details can be found online.
After taking the lateral flow test, a photo should be taken both of the booking reference number and the test result and sent to the test provider as proof.
Test kits can be ordered online from a multitude of providers. The government has published an approved list, but travellers are not obliged to order from this list.
Travellers should also be wary of too-good-to-be-true pricing. One provider is advertising tests at just GBP1, but on reading the small print, travellers must pick-up the testing kit from the provider in the southeast of England several weeks before travel and return the result in person. Mailing costs can take a cheap-and-cheerful test to a final price of GBP30 or more. More reliable test providers such as Randox and Collinson are currently advertising tests for GBP20-30.
There are also options to pick up a test in UK airports. Expresstest is currently advertising Arrivals’ Antigen Lateral Flow at-home testing kits for GBP19.99. A click-and-collect service will be available from November 3.
The new regulations apply to fully vaccinated adults over the age of 18 who ‘usually live in the UK’ or countries where vaccinations are recognised by the UK (this includes Hong Kong and Singapore) and have received a vaccination recognised by the UK (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen). Adults who do not meet these requirements or who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for ten days and take departure, day two and day eight PCR tests.
All children over the age of five must take a day two lateral flow test.
The new testing rules will apply to those arriving in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and it's expected that Wales will also switch to lateral flow testing, although at this time no formal announcement has been made.
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