Fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from countries not on the travel ban red list can use a COVID-19 negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT) instead of the more expensive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, under the new rules effective from Sunday, which could boost the country’s tourism sector.
Other parts of the UK Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also expected to follow similar LFT rules for vaccinated travellers in the coming weeks.
Travellers vaccinated in over 100 countries, including India, will also be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated residents in England, the government said.
This means that travellers arriving in England from a non-red list country can use LFT instead of the PCR on or before day two.
I’m delighted that from today eligible travellers to England, who’ve had the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine can benefit from a cheaper lateral flow test, providing faster results, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.
This huge boost to the travel industry and the public will make it easier and cheaper for people to book holidays and travel abroad, and it is because of our incredible vaccine programme that this is possible. Anyone who tests positive must take a PCR test, which, if positive, may be genomically sequenced to check for variants and further help us fight this virus, he added.
Travellers must take a photo of their LFT and booking reference supplied by a private provider and send it back for verification.
They will also be able to book a test which they can take on arrival at several testing centres located at certain airports in England.
The change in rules for post-arrival tests will give passengers more options and faster results, just in time for many half-term holidays. It’s thanks to the success of our vaccination programme that we can make this switch giving the industry and consumers a much-needed boost, said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Travellers who have already bought PCRs for travel do not need to undergo another test.
Testing and self-isolating if you are positive remain crucial steps to managing the pandemic and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the community, Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said.
It is also critical that those who have positive Lateral Flow Tests when returning to England go on to get this checked through a NHS Test & Trace PCR. This way we can continue to monitor new variants and stay on top of the virus, he added.
Travellers will still need to complete a passenger locator form before they return, including providing a test booking reference number supplied by the provider.
Passengers who are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine must still take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 and complete 10 days self-isolation on entry to the UK.
The rule change comes into effect at a time when the UK continues to report a high number of cases on a daily basis, with official data showing 44,985 infections and 135 deaths on Saturday.