UPDATE: What travellers from Europe to UK need to know about new Covid test rules
With the worsening Covid-19 situation across Europe and the spread of the new Omicron variant, the UK has announced yet more new testing rules for arrivals. Here's what you need to know about the new requirement for pre-departure tests.
Published: 28 November 2021 12:24 CET Updated: 4 December 2021 21:15 CET
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) announces the new requirements for entry to the UK at a press conference alongside Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (R) on November 27th, 2021. Hollie Adams / POOL / AFP
On Saturday December 4th the British government announced it would demand pre-departure tests for all arrivals from 4am on December 7th onwards.
These tests, which were scrapped only weeks ago, must be taken within two days of travel to the UK. They can be PCR or antigen tests and must be carried out by all travellers regardless of their vaccination status.
The requirement applies for those arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Day 2 PCR tests
On November 27th the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that PCR tests and self-isolation for UK arrivals would be reintroduced amid concerns of the new Omicron variant that was first identified in South Africa and has now been found in several people in mainland Europe and the UK.
The requirements came into force at 4am on Tuesday, November 30th.
This means that if you’re arriving in the UK after 4am on Tuesday, November 30th, you need to book and take PCR tests instead of lateral flow tests, which will no longer be accepted.
You’ll need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving in the UK and self-isolate until you get a negative test result.
This means you can only leave home if you need to buy essential supplies, such as food or medication (but only if no-one else can buy them for you), to take a test or for urgent medical care.
The potential problem with this change is that the UK testing system has been beset with problems.
For example, at least one private testing company is being investigated for failure to deliver PCR test results on time – or in some cases at all – meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for a long time.
And Which? travel editor Rory Boland expressed concern about the testing companies and how they would cope with the additional demand, as he details in the below tweet, meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for days.
People regularly report missing test results, companies that never reply when you have a problem and fake prices from firms that don't exist.
When you do take a test, the UK government only carry out genomic sequencing on a handful of results submitted.
If you’re due to arrive before 4am on November 30th, you can complete the required Passenger Locator Form now, but if you’re arriving after that time, you’ll need to return to the website after 4am on Monday, November 29th as the system is being updated.
You need to fill one of these forms in, even if you’re just passing through the UK, and it needs to be completed 48 hours or less before you start your journey.
Lack of clarity
However, a few things remain unclear, including what the requirements are for people who are entering the UK for less than two days, and whether these could rule out short business trips.
The government is expected to reveal further details this week and we will be update this article as soon as further information is available.
Wearing face masks on public transport and in shops will also be mandatory again in England from Tuesday.
They are still required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on public transport and many indoor spaces.
Reader Question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?
Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.
Published: 23 May 2022 13:44 CEST
Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a Letter of Recovery from Covid-19… true?”
Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.
Anyone who tests positive in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle or recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.
That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.
In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).
The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.
Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.
Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.
Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.
It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.
If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.
Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.
You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.