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It's official: You'll now be able to test out of the UK's mandatory 14-day quarantine

Nov. 24, 2020
7 min read
It's official: You'll now be able to test out of the UK's mandatory 14-day quarantine
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The U.K. government is shifting the way it enforces travel restrictions. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps just announced that England will implement a new quarantine and test strategy for international arrivals.

As of Dec. 15, England will introduce a testing strategy for passengers who arrive in the country from non-travel corridor countries. As of that date, arrivals from non-travel corridor countries can choose to have their quarantine period slashed from 14 days to five days as part of what is being billed as the "Test to release for international travel" strategy — a development of the Global Travel Taskforce.

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"We have a plan in place to ensure that our route out of this pandemic is careful and balanced, allowing us to focus on what we can now do to bolster international travel while keeping the public safe," Shapps said in a statement.

After five days, passengers who arrived in England from a destination not on the travel corridors list will be able to test out of the remainder of their quarantine period. The traveler, provided they pay for the test themselves from a government-approved private provider, will be able to leave quarantine if their test produces a negative result.

Related: Country-by-country guide to reopening

Passengers entering England by plane, train or ferry who are planning to use the Test to Release strategy are required to book their test from a government-approved provider before they travel. Government-approved providers will be listed on the gov.uk website once the Test to Release program comes into effect on Dec. 15. These passengers must still complete a passenger locator form before traveling to England.

On arrival, the passenger must head directly from the airport, ferry port or train station to their self-isolation location. On the fifth day, the passenger can then either take their at-home test or go to a provider's testing site. Only on receipt of the negative result can the traveler then immediately leave their self-isolation.

Related: Where Americans can go internationally

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If, on entry to England, you don't intend to use the Test to Release program and note that on your passenger locator form but then change your mind to use it, you will have to resubmit the form.

Additionally, the government is keeping the option open for travelers to go about a full two-week quarantine if they so choose. In other words, if you have the flexibility and willingness to quarantine for a full two weeks, you can continue to do so if you're arriving in England from a non-travel corridor country.

(Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

"Our new testing strategy will allow us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive international business," Shapps said. "By giving people the choice to test on day five, we are also supporting the travel industry as it continues to rebuild out of the pandemic."

When travel resumed following England's first lockdown in July, the government implemented a travel corridor approach to who it allowed to enter the country without quarantine. Each week since July, the government has added to and removed destinations from that travel corridor list, depending on their risk level.

Related: All 69 countries, territories and regions that are on England’s travel corridor list

Arrivals from any destination listed have not been required to quarantine for two weeks. However, for passengers arriving in England from any destination not on the travel corridors list, such as the United States, Italy, Spain and more, there has been a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The government said it's going to continue to use the travel corridor approach in conjunction with the Test to Release program. So, if you arrive from a destination that's on the travel corridor list, such as Israel, St Lucia, The Azores and more, you do not have to quarantine or test out of quarantine. The government will continue to revisit which destinations are included on that list every week.

The government said it has evidence that demonstrates "a test after five days of self-isolation provides materially better results than just having a test on arrival," according to a press release. The delayed testing allows time for the virus to incubate, reducing the risk of a false negative result, similar to Barbados' strategy for testing on arrival.

Related: Chile reopening to Americans

"Ensuring that safe travel is possible has been a priority for the Global Travel Taskforce," Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. "This test on day five of the 14-day self-isolation period will identify positive coronavirus cases and allow those who test negative to return to work and see their loved ones while abiding by domestic coronavirus restrictions."

Travel industry executives have long pushed for the government to take a testing approach to travel. Since the restart of travel, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye has pressured the government to implement a testing alternative to quarantine. Additionally, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss and other travel leaders have pushed for the same.

Some airlines, such as United, American and British Airways have begun offering testing for passengers on routes between the U.S. and the U.K. Last week, United Airlines' first COVID-19-free flight landed at Heathrow. Every passenger and crew member was tested for COVID-19 before being permitted to board the plane in Newark.

However, testing prior to arrival is not enough to avoid quarantine altogether, the English government has made clear. With its Test to Release approach, it's still requiring that travelers coming from high-risk destinations self-isolate for a period of five days before being able to test out.

Still, the move to implement a testing alternative is expected to give a much-needed lift to the travel industry once it takes effect on Dec. 15.

Related: Complete guide to Caribbean reopening

The timing of the introduction is beneficial for both travelers and travel providers as well. As the Christmas holidays approach, the new Test to Release scheme will provide a more accessible way for travelers to enter England without having to quarantine for a full 14 days.

It's worth noting that for all travelers looking to take advantage of Test to Release, the cost of the test will be out of pocket. And for the most part, home testing kits are not cheap. With most at-home or in-person clinic visits costing more than £150 (about $200), it will likely not come without some thought.

Consider a family of four looking to test out of a full 14-day quarantine, they are looking at a potential £600 (about $800) additional cost to their vacation. While it's possible that prices could drop as a result of the Test to Release initiative, we will have to wait to see.

It's also worth noting that while the introduction of a Test to Release program will largely open England up to American travellers, Britons largely still can't travel to the U.S. Since March, the U.S. has been closed to non-nationals who have been in Europe, the Schengen Area, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) or Iran in the past 14 days.

There were reports that there could be an air bridge opening for travelers between London and New York, however, this new announcement of a Test to Release program didn't mention anything about that possibility. However, there's still a chance that could happen by the end of the year.

Those who breach self-isolation rules on entering England will still be subject to steep fines. Travelers arriving from non-exempt countries can be fined £1,000 ($1,332) for first violations and up to £10,000 ($13,320) for subsequent breaches.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023