Can you travel abroad with one PCR test?

Close-up of doctor using cotton swab while doing coronavirus PCR test at the hospital.

Many of us are anticipating the return of leisure holidays amid the release of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the need for PCR tests and just how many you need to take before and after travelling. If you’re looking for more information about day 2 and 8 tests, we’ve covered all you need to know below.

Are PCR tests compulsory for travel?

Yes, as it stands it is compulsory to take a PCR test and show proof of a negative result at least 3 days before you travel abroad. If you travel to a green listed country, you will only have to take one PCR test on day 2 of your arrival back into the UK.  Since many countries are still considered a ‘high risk’ (amber and red), anybody who has travelled internationally for work or leisure will need to take two tests: one on day 2 for variant surveillance and another on day 8 of quarantine. You are responsible for booking these tests and paying for them and you’ll also need to fill in a passenger locator form too.

Testing requirements after returning to the UK

If you have travelled internationally, you will be required to quarantine and take further PCR tests when you return to the UK. As it stands, the current isolation period is 10 days. You must provide details of where you will quarantine following your arrival back into the UK, and this must be provided at least 48 hours before you return. You will then have to take the two PCR tests as mentioned above, one of which tests for coronavirus and another for variants.

Taking the tests during quarantine

You must book both of your PCR tests before you travel back to the UK. It is not possible to travel abroad and only book for just one PCR test because the tests are for different results. In fact, if you fail to follow the rules set out by the government, you risk a penalty fine of up to £10,000.

Day 2 test

Take a PCR test on day 2 of your quarantine period to prove that you do carry any coronavirus variants. Your arrival day in the UK is classed as day 0. The test has been designed to pick up traces of COVID-19 and is highly effective. You can take the test at your own home or at a nominated test site so long as you can travel there safely. If your result comes back positive, you will be required to quarantine for a further 10 days and you don’t need to take the day 8 test.

Day 8 test

If you test negative on your first PCR test, you will need to take another test on day 8 to show you do not have coronavirus. If your results are negative, you will be able to end your quarantine period on day 10. However, if you test positive at this stage, you will need to begin the quarantine period again.

Test to release scheme

You may be eligible to end your quarantine period earlier if you pay for a test to release scheme. If the country you have visited is on the amber list, you will be able to take a test to release. However, you can only do so after you have been back in the UK for 5 days. You will be responsible for booking and paying for a test to release since they are private and non-compulsory tests.

The new travel and coronavirus regulations can cause some confusion; however, so long as you follow the guidance set out by the government above, you can travel abroad safely. 


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