Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you should not travel unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.
From 15 February onwards, everyone allowed to enter England from outside the Common Travel Area must:
- quarantine for 10 days
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on day 2 and day 8 of quarantining
- follow the national lockdown rules
From 15 February onwards, everyone allowed to enter England who has visited or passed through a country where travel to the UK is banned in the last 10 days must:
- quarantine for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantining
- follow the national lockdown rules
Test to Release - International Travel
Passengers arriving into England can reduce the quarantine period from non-exempt countries by taking a private Covid-19 test. If a test taken on day five after arrival proves negative, passengers can unlock themselves early from the 10 day quarantine.
Anyone who arrives in England from outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man needs to self-isolate for 10 days. Under the scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating. You cannot take a test until you have been in England for 5 full days. The scheme is voluntary and applies to those self-isolating in England only. If you do not want to opt into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
Local test providers can be found here.
We recommend that travellers book their test before arriving in England, as they will be required to indicate on the Passenger Locator Form whether they have opted into the ‘Test to Release’ scheme. All international arrivals must complete a Passenger Locator Form on arrival in the UK.
If a traveller decides to opt in once they have arrived in the UK and started self-isolating, they must submit a new Passenger Locator Form. Failure to submit a new Passenger Locator Form could result in a fixed penalty notice starting at £100.
Participants must continue self-isolating until they receive a negative result
Participants who test positive will move into the UK’s existing system for positive cases: they will be required to self-isolate for 10 days from the day of the test or when their symptoms started, if earlier. Their contacts will be traced and notified as normal.
The scheme is optional - any travellers who are required to self-isolate may choose not to opt into the ‘test to release’ scheme.
Where can I find more information on the Test to Release scheme?
Full government guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-test-to-release-for-international-travel
How do I find a test?
You can find a test on the gov.uk providers list. You should check that the test you use meets minimum standards.
Can I take my test immediately?
You must take the test no earlier than 5 full days of self-isolation. If you take your test before then, it cannot be used to cease self-isolation early even if you receive a negative test.
Is the scheme compulsory?
No. The scheme is voluntary – if travellers do not wish to opt in, they must complete the full 10-day self-isolation period, which starts as soon as they arrive in England. Even if you do not wish to participate, you must still complete a Passenger Locator Form upon arrival to the UK.
How can I opt into the scheme?
You should visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-test-to-release-for-international-travel for further information about what the scheme is, how it works, and to find links to the gov.uk providers list. We recommend booking your test before you travel, as you will need to opt into the scheme and enter your test booking details in the Passenger Locator Form, which must be completed on arrival to the UK. If you decide to take part in the scheme once you have arrived in England, you will need to submit a new Passenger Locator Form. Failure to complete a new Passenger Locator form may result in a fixed penalty notice starting at £100.
What modes of transport does this apply to?
All modes of transport – travellers arriving on planes, ferries and international rail services can opt in to ‘test to release’.
What if I return to the UK and start self-isolating, but decide I want to participate?
Travellers are encouraged to opt-in and book their test before they travel to England, but it will still be possible to book a test after you have arrived. If you choose to do this, you must submit a new Passenger Locator Form and fill in details about your test provider. Failure to submit a new Passenger Locator Form could result in a fixed penalty notice starting at £100.
If I opt-in after arrival, how long will it take to get the test?
We recommend that travellers book a test before arrival in the UK so that they will have greatest certainty regarding access to a test on the right day. Travellers should bear in mind that tests will be provided by the private sector, so the Government cannot guarantee that appointments and postal tests will be available when requested, especially if travellers book with very late notice.
How many tests can be taken during the isolation period?
The traveller can stop self-isolating immediately if they receive a negative result from a privately provided test taken at least 5 full days of self-isolation. If the result of the test is inconclusive then the traveller may pay for and take another test or complete their full isolation period, starting upon arrival to England. If the traveller receives a positive test result they cannot end self-isolation by taking another test – they must self-isolate for 10 days from when they took the test or when their symptoms started, if earlier.
What happens if I develop COVID-19 symptoms when I arrive in the UK?
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms you should self-isolate and book a test using the NHS Test and Trace service. A negative test provided by NHS Test and Trace will not permit you to cease self-isolating early.
What happens if my test comes back positive?
If you test positive then you will be required to self-isolate for ten days from when you took the test or from when your symptoms started, if earlier. Taking another test after you have received a positive test result will not shorten this self-isolation period.
How should I travel to get my test?
You can leave the place where you are self-isolating to travel directly to a testing site or to post a home test kit. You should travel to a testing site using private transport, if possible. If you cannot access private transport for this, you should consider booking an at-home test. You should follow safer travel guidance.
Can I take the test at home/ a testing site?
Yes. Providers will be able to offer tests at testing sites and deliver tests to your home or the place where you are self-isolating.
How is the scheme enforced?
Compliance checks are carried out by Public Health England’s Isolation Assurance Service (IAS) which contacts randomly sampled international arrivals to ensure that they are self-isolating. Compliance checks are also carried out by the police
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) are issued for those who are not complying with self-isolation regulations. The fixed penalty payable for a first offence remains £1,000, and increases to £2,000, £4,000, then £10,000 for subsequent offences.
How does someone prove to the police that they have received a negative test?
Individuals will receive a set-form notification of their test result from the private test provider.
This notification will come in the form of a text, email or secure message. It will include whether you can cease self-isolating or whether you need to continue self-isolating and if so, for how long.
International arrivals may be asked to show their notification to the police to confirm they received a negative test result and are no longer required to self-isolate.