New Travel Testing Rules Explained


The UK Government has recently changed the rules for travel testing again, with the new rules going into effect as of 4 October 2021. The traffic light system is officially over. The new list is now Red vs the Rest of the World, and it is the status of the individual traveller that determines the type of test needed - rather than the status of the country from which they are arriving.

We explain the rules below and have divided them into the:

1. Rules for the Vaccinated

2. Rules for the Unvaccinated

And another section to explain the rules for children. Read on below.

Red vs Rest of the World

The traffic light system looks a little different from 4 October onwards. The Green and Amber lists have merged to become the "GO" list of the "rest of the world" AKA Non-Red list countries. If you are arriving from a country that is not on the Red list, then the type of test you need depends entirely on your vaccination status.

If you are arriving from a Red list country, the rules remain the same, regardless of your vaccination status. This means travellers from Red list countries:

  • Must isolate at a managed quarantine facility.
  • Must take a Day 2 and Day 8 test.
  • Quarantine and testing packages must be booked through the Government site and must not be booked through private providers.
  • Not eligible for early release with the Day 5 test.

The link to the Government guidance on Red list countries can be found here.

For everyone else, the rules based on vaccination status are explained below.

Vaccinated Arrivals into the UK

From 4 October onwards, fully vaccinated travellers arriving into the UK will no longer need a pre-departure test before arriving in the UK but will still need to perform a Day 2 PCR test after arrival if they are arriving from a non-Red list destination. From 24 October, fully vaccinated arrivals to England will only need to perform a Day 2 Lateral Flow Test, replacing the Day 2 PCR. The rules for Scotland and Wales defer, as the devolved nations still require Day 2 PCRs for arrivals.

To count as fully vaccinated, you need to have had the last dose of the following vaccines at least 14 days prior to your arrival to the UK. The approved vaccines are:

1. Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine

2. Two doses of the Moderna vaccine

3. Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

4. One dose of the Janssen vaccine

You must also have been vaccinated in the UK or one of the countries on the approved list. The list can be found on the Government site here.

If the above does not apply to you, for instance if you only have 1 dose of an approved 2 dose vaccine, or if you have been vaccinated in a country not on the above list, then you do not count as vaccinated and will need to follow the rules for unvaccinated travellers (see below).

The Government has announced that this test will change from a PCR to a Lateral Flow Test, but this has not yet gone into effect.

We offer the following product for this purpose:

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Unvaccinated Arrivals into the UK

Travellers count as unvaccinated if:

  1. They have not had any dose of an approved vaccine.
  2. They have had only 1 dose of a 2 dose vaccine like Moderna.
  3. They have been vaccinated in a country not on the approved list (see above).
  4. They have been vaccinated with a non-approved vaccine, like Sinopharm for example.

If the above applies to you, you must:

  1. Take a pre-departure test before you board your flight to the UK. This can be either a PCR or a Lateral Flow Test, taken within 72 hours of your arrival to the UK.
  2. You must self-isolate when you arrive in the UK.
  3. You must take a Day 2 and a Day 8 test and remain in isolation until you receive negative results for your Day 8 test.
  4. You can opt to take a Day 5/Test to Release to leave quarantine earlier (if you have a negative result).

We offer the following products for this purpose:

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What about the children?

Children's testing requirements for arrival into England depends on their residency. If they are under 18 and live in the UK or a country with an approved vaccination programme, or if they are taking part in an approved UK or US COVID-19 vaccine trial, they qualify as fully vaccinated and should follow the rules for fully vaccinated arrivals.

If they are under 18 and live outside the UK or outside a country with an approved vaccination programme, they are considered unvaccinated and should follow the rules for unvaccinated arrivals.

Children 4 and under are exempt from travel testing and quarantine.

Test for Departing the UK

Before you travel to your destination, you should check the foreign travel advice page on the Government website. It will tell you all you need to know about the requirements for entry for 226 destinations listed.

You can check the site here.

Just enter the name of the destination in the search field and go to the relevant page. This page should let you know the type of test accepted as a requirement for entry into your destination. In most cases, it will either be a PCR test or a Rapid Antigen test. In some cases, there are specific requirements about the PCR test (like an RT-PCR for example), or the type of rapid test (like ones accepted by the EU).

Once you’ve determined the type of test, you need to understand how long the testing window is prior to your flight. For PCR, it is usually 72 hours, but there are some countries requiring it within 96 hours, 48 hours, or even 24 hours prior to the flight. For rapid antigen, requirements normally range between 24 hours and 72 hours prior to arrival.

Some destinations have additional requirements, or they have exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers.

At Confirm Testing, we offer PCR Fit to Fly through our clinic only, which guarantees you receive results the next day and in time for your flight. For Rapid Antigen, we offer both an in-clinic or at-home service for your convenience.

We offer the following product for this purpose:

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We hope that helps clarify the guidelines around travel testing. As always, we at Confirm Testing are always happy to help clarify the different tests for our customers.

Wishing you continued health and safe travels!