NEWS: Government rules on return to UK testing for short stays, Gibraltar entry test change & Portugal allow lateral flow

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, International Arrivals concourse, July 2009. Image ref CHE06002d, RP

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Government changes rules on return UK testing

The rules on returning to the UK are not particularly easy to navigate and all the information for situations such as leaving the country before the day 2 test has never really been clear in the basic public information. I have had a lot of questions this week about what happens if you leave the country before day 2 or 8. Up until Tuesday 8 June, you could just buy the tests for the days that you were here, and indeed this is what track and trace told one reader this week. However, other readers received a different reply this week….

It was always stated in the legislation though that you only needed to buy a day two test if you plan to “remain in England for two days or more after the day of their arrival”. This was sensible as due to the skeleton schedules even passengers on a single ticket are quite likely to have to wait overnight for their next flight. 

On 8 June the wording changed. 

The legislation now says “Regulations 3 and 4 have the effect that persons arriving in England intending to stay for short periods of time must nevertheless obtain testing packages in the same manner as those visiting for longer periods.”

I honestly don’t know how they expect the general public to stick to rules when you have to delve into legal documents to find out the answer to fairly basic questions!

So unless you are in transit you will need to buy:

  • Arriving from a green country – a day 2 test
  • Arriving from an amber country – a day 2 and 8 test

Being in transit is classed as:

A person who on arrival in the United Kingdom—

(a)passes through to another country or territory outside the common travel area without entering the United Kingdom; or

(b)enters the United Kingdom for the sole purpose of continuing a journey to a country or territory outside the common travel area and—

(i) remains within their port of entry until their departure from England, or

(ii) travels directly from their port of entry to another port of departure in England

So if you leave the airport to stay at a hotel that would mean that you have to buy the tests. Day 2 tests can be done on or before day 2, so you could actually still do the test when you arrive if you leave the airport. 

Thanks to @alexis for spotting the change. 


Gibraltar entry test change for unvaccinated

Since Gibraltar went on the green list they have already changed their testing requirements once at very short notice (as the first flight for Gibraltor took off!). Currently, everyone needs to have a free lateral flow test at Gibraltar airport (which you must book in advance). 

From Sunday 13 June, anyone aged 12 or over who is not fully vaccinated will have to pretest within 48 hours of your flight. Certain rapid lateral flow tests are acceptable. 

The definition of being fully vaccinated is: 

  • A person is deemed to be fully vaccinated when they have received two doses in a 2-dose series COVID-19 vaccine (such as Pfizer or Astrazeneca vaccines) or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (such Johnson & Johnson Jannsen vaccine). COVID-19 vaccines must have received regulatory approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK.

You can find all the details here.


Portugal allowing lateral flow tests for entry

It’s shame that Portugal have just gone off the green list as they are now making it easier for visitors in terms of cost and timing. When I visited a few weeks ago you had to have a PCR test within 72 hours of your departure. These are the most expensive tests and take longer to process. Now Portugal has changed the working and is accepting (except for children of 24 months old and under who do not need to test) rapid antigen tests performed within 24 hours before boarding. PCR tests can still be within 72 hours.

Rapid Antigen tests usually only take around 20 minutes to get the results and so 24 hours should be enough time even if you had to get a repeat test. You could even do it at the airport but I think I’d find that a bit too close for comfort! They are much cheaper and although some view them as less accurate, if you did it within 24 hours of travel it probably works out about the same in terms of picking up Covid as the PCR test are obviously done some time before you travel. 

You can find full information here. 

7 Comments on "NEWS: Government rules on return to UK testing for short stays, Gibraltar entry test change & Portugal allow lateral flow"

  1. Can you fly into UK from a red list country, like Turkey, not leave the airside and just transit onto another flight to a country like Portugal to isolate there for 10 days? Or is it the case that as soon as you land from a red list you have to go straight to a government hotel, even if you want to transit out again that same day?

    • The rules say “If you enter England and intend to continue your journey directly to a country outside of the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) then you do not need to book a quarantine package or enter managed quarantine.

      If necessary, you may travel straight from your port of arrival to another port in England to catch a flight, train or ferry going outside of the Common Travel Area, but you must take precautions to prevent the risk of virus transmission.”

    • There is nothing wrong with flying directly to an amber country from a red country if it’s allowed by the country you are going to and spending 10 days there. I’d rather spend £1750 on a hotel somewhere nice than in Heathrow! Obviously you’d still have to do 10 days at home but better than being in the enforced quarantine.

      • Thank you Michelle! That is my plan. At the moment we are due to fly 22 July Istanbul to London. But if it’s still red list we choose either to do this and then fly on to a country that will accept the fact we’ve been to Turkey and isolate there. Alternatively we change our flight to go direct from Istanbul to Malta or Germany for example. Too early to tell yet. Thank you for your advice.

  2. Michelle – thank you. That’s exactly our plan. Our flight is booked Istanbul to London so either I can change the flight to Germany for example, and spend 10 days there, or, as you’ve now said I can transit through, I could fly direct into London and change planes to many other countries.(this is the cheaper option). We do home exchanges so the accommodation will be free if I can get a successful exchange. We can’t afford to spend £1750 in UK to quarantine (2 of us). French travellers from red list are allowed to spend 7 days isolating at their homes.

  3. It’s all a nightmare, even to fly to the greek islands or malta with low numbers. It’s still a test before returning, then day 2 and 5 for test and release but still have to pay for day 8 (pointless waste of money). All regardless of vaccination status, unlike most countries. Will add £200 onto the holiday. Still going though as I need a holiday :0) Do you think there is any chance of it changing anytime soon? before I order my testing. Will be returning the 5th July. Thanks for keeping us informed

    • Hi Nigel. Personally I’d leave it until closer to the time. You can order while you are away if necessary. I’ve only just ordered all my tests today for my return tomorrow. I think it’s very likely that there will be some concessions for those vaccinated. However, I think there’s only a slim chance of it coming in by 28 June which is the next review. Why it takes them so long to make a decision I don’t know. They’d also a possibility that some countries or islands could be added to the green list. Malta stands the strongest chance as it should have been there from the start. It’s only worth booking in advance for the tests if you want a specific time or for one of the lateral flows you need to take with you.

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