From October 24 travel to the UK will become cheaper for fully vaccinated passengers (and most under 18s) arriving from countries (like South Africa) which are not on the red list.
On that date, the cheaper lateral flow test may be used in place of the more expensive PCR test.
The test must be conducted on or before day 2 of arrival in the UK. Test bookings open on October 22, and on that date the details of providers of the lateral flow test will be listed on gov.uk. Test centres will be available at some airports, said the government website.
Passengers are required to upload a photo of their home test and of the booking reference, and send it back to the test provider to verify results, as soon as possible. Free confirmatory NHS PCRs are conducted for any pax with a positive test result.
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said testing, along with vaccines, remained one of the UK’s first lines of defence against COVID-19. “Getting a test as early as possible on arrival and isolation when necessary, can help control the spread of the virus and protect one another.
“The government will extend regulations and publish protocol to allow some tests supplied to the private testing market that are pending validation to remain on the market in the short term. This is to address any potential shortage of supply while work continues at pace to ensure only high-performing tests are ultimately approved to remain on the UK market. The government will continue to publish a list of private testing providers who meet the minimum standards for the public to choose from, with PCR test options available as well,” she said.
Travellers will have to complete a passenger locator form (PLF) prior to travel, including in it, the test booking reference number supplied by the testing provider. Travellers will be able to upload their test booking reference to the passenger locator form from October 22 for arrival in the UK from October 24 (ie, proof that the pax has a test booking is an essential part of the form).
Dr Harries confirmed that travellers vaccinated in over 100 countries and territories including Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey, will be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated UK residents, requiring only the pre-booked lateral flow test, the PLF form and, of course a visa where applicable.
This is as long as they have not visited a red list country or territory in the 10 days before arriving in England.
Eligible under 18s from these countries will also be treated as if fully vaccinated.
UK residents who are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine, and who are returning from a non-red destination (like South Africa) to the UK, must still take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 and complete 10 days self-isolation (with the option of ‘Test to Release’ on day 5).
In a recent comment to Tourism Update, UK tourism industry specialist, Claire Roadley, highlighted the major cost barrier of PCR tests in the UK, noting that it would boost tourism between South Africa and Britain if the PCR tests could be changed to lateral flow tests.