When do I need to take a day 2 PCR test? UK Covid testing rules for travel explained as Omicron cases rise

Travellers arriving in the UK must take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they have received a negative result

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Stricter Covid testing rules for travellers arriving in the UK from abroad will come into force this week to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The government has announced that day two lateral flow tests will instead be replaced with the more expensive PCR tests, and travellers will need to self-isolate until they have received a negative result.

Here’s everything you need to know about the changes.

When do I need to take a day two test?

As of 4am on Tuesday (30 November), all travellers arriving in the UK will be required to take a PCR test on or before day two.

It is also required that travellers self-isolate at home until they have received a negative result.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that border measures can only “minimise and delay the arrival of a new coronavirus variant rather than stop it all together”.

As such, all contacts of a suspected positive Omicron case must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have said they intend to mirror the border restrictions being enforced in England.

Mr Johnson added that the new travel rules will be reviewed in three weeks when more information is available about the variant, and the effectiveness of the current vaccines against it.

He said: “I very much hope that we will find that we continue to be in a strong position and we can lift these measures again, but right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximise our defences so that we protect the gains we’ve worked for so hard.”

Where can I get a PCR test?

PCR tests for travel must be purchased from private providers, as the free NHS tests will not be valid.

Test packages for travel must be booked in advance to give the provider time to organise delivery of the testing kits.

A comprehensive list of PCR test providers is available on the government website.

Test providers include ExpressTest (£69), Randox Health Airport Testing (£43), Arrival Testing (£69), My Clear Test (£64.99) and TestnGo (£60), among hundreds of others.

You can select either a day two test to be taken on your return, or a pre-departure test, or both, depending on what is required for your destination.

High street retailers Boots and Superdrug also both offer PCR tests.

The results of these will usually be returned within 48 hours, and if the test is inconclusive you will be issued a refund, or be given the option of paying to repeat the test. Tests at Boots also come with a “fit to fly certificate”.

Alternatively, some airlines and travel companies also offer PCR tests, with prices at around £60 each.

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