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United Kingdom to require a negative COVID-19 test from all international arrivals

Earlier, IH Aviation and Travel had reported that United Kingdom would require a negative COVID-19 test result from all international arrivals ‘as soon as possible’. However, we didn’t have an exact date.

From 4am on Monday 18th January, 2021, you must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to England. You must take a test if

The test must be taken not more than 72 hours before departure.

Note that this applies to England. See guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Although the BBC reports that “Scotland is set to adopt the same approach to international travellers, while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to announce plans for pre-arrival testing in the coming days.”

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, tweeted:

UK government says that if you are arriving in England before 4am on 18 January 2021, you are under no legal obligation to get a test before you travel. You should not be denied boarding for failing to provide proof of a negative test result, and will not be fined on arrival into England. We still encourage you to comply with this guidance and get a test if possible.

You could be fined £500

If you don’t present proof of a negative test result certificate, you may not be able to board any form of transport to travel to England. If you arrive in England without proof of a negative test result, you could be fined £500.

In terms of the type of tests which are acceptable, the government says:


Type of test and test providers

You will need to find a test provider. You must make sure that the test provider can meet the standards for pre-departure testing.

The test must:

  • meet performance standards of ≥97 per cent specificity, ≥80 per cent sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml
  • this could include tests such as:
  • a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
  • an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device

It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.

You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards. It is your responsibility to ensure you get the right test that meets the above requirements.

Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.

If you take your test in the UK, ahead of a return journey of less than 3 days, you must use a private test provider. You cannot use an NHS Test and Trace test.

Information that the test result must include

Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate. It must include the following information:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
  • your date of birth or age
  • the result of the test
  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  • the name of the test provider and their contact details
  • the name of the test device

If the test result does not include this information you may not be able to board, and may not be able to travel to England. If you arrive without a test result that includes this information, you will be committing a criminal offence and could receive a £500 fine.

Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone. Make sure that your device is charged.

Getting a test in a country you transit through

It is your responsibility to make sure you have a valid test result to show when you board. You should not rely on being able to get a test in a country that you will transit through as part of your journey to England. It is possible that local or entry restrictions will mean you are not able to get a test.

If you don’t have a test result because you were unable to get one in a country you transited through, and you are not permitted to enter the transit country, you will be allowed to board your transport to England. But you could be fined £500 on arrival in England for not having a valid test result.


There are some exemptions – people who do not need to take a test. These include those travelling from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Ascension, Falkland Islands and St Helena.

In addition passengers arriving from Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados will not need to take a test if they are arriving before Thursday January 21.

There are various exemptions for children, those with medical exemptions, and certain job roles – full details can be seen here.

All travellers will have to adhere to the ten days self-isolation period when arriving into the UK, even when presenting a negative test result before boarding.

However they can opt into the Test to Release scheme to shorten this period, providing they have not arrived from or through South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the ten days before arrival in England.

If you still have any queries, visit here.

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