England-bound passengers need to test for Covid19 before departure

As news of the Omicron variant surfaced over Thanksgiving, various countries have started to impose their own restrictions on international travel.

The United Kingdom, some cases of the Omicron already in their territory, changed their rules, to deem a compulsory RT-PCR test on arrival (up to two days after arrival) from people. This rule is not just valid for countries in Africa, but globally.

Now, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care of the UK, Sajid Javid, has announced a new requirement, going into effect on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, at 4 AM UK Time.

As per the new requirements posted on the Gov.Uk website,

You must take the test in the 2 days before your service to England departs.

For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you must take the test 2 days before the start of the first leg.

Type of test

The test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

This could include tests such as:

  • a nucleic acid test, including a PCR test
  • a LAMP test
  • an antigen test, such as an LFD (lateral flow device) test

You must check with your test provider that the test meets the standards. You may not be able to travel if it does not.

If you have recently had COVID

If you have recently recovered from COVID but are no longer infectious, you should use a lateral flow device (LFD) test. LFD tests have lower sensitivity than PCR or LAMP tests, so they are less likely to return a positive result from a historic infection. The LFD test must meet the minimum performance standards as set out above.

Where to take your test

You will need to find a private test provider to take a test.

You can choose to take a test:

  • in the place where you start your journey
  • in another country on your way to England, if you are travelling through another country

Where possible, the government travel advice pages provide information about finding a testing provider.

Taking a test on your journey to England

If your journey to England is long and will involve stopping in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in the country you’re travelling through. This is so you take the test in the 2 days before you board the final service to England.

For example, if you’re driving from Germany and you stop for a few days in Belgium, you should take a test in Belgium.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you can take the test 2 days before the start of the first leg. However, where possible, you should get a test within 2 days of your final departure point to England.

Check that you will be able to get a test

If you plan to take a test in a country on your way to England, you must make sure that this is possible before you set out. Some countries have entry restrictions in place, which mean you may not be able to get tested there.

If you do not have proof of a test because you planned to get tested on your journey, but you were not able to do so because you were not able to enter the country in which you planned to get tested, you will be allowed to board. But you may be fined £500 on arrival in England because you do not have a valid test result.


If you are arriving in England after December 7, 2021, take note to have a negative test within two days before departure. While there are many ifs and buts right now (2 days means 48 hours or 2 calender days?) but a report will anyways be required.

What do you make of the (ever) changing requirements to travel to the United Kingdom?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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