With the first change of isolation time going into effect, Test to Release goes live as of today.
As a reminder, the “Test to Release” scheme is for international travellers who need to isolate on arrival into the United Kingdom (normally when travelling from a country, not on the travel corridor list.
Under the scheme, you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating and in turn – cut down your isolation time.
The scheme is optional, for those who want to pay for testing.
So you want to take part – How does it work?
It’s pretty easy. To take part in the scheme you need to:
- book a test with a private test provider
- choose to opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form
You will be asked to enter details of your test in the passenger locator form and is a requirement of the scheme. You will need to book your test before you travel to England, so you can put the test details in the locator form.
If you decide to take part in the scheme after you have arrived in England, you will need to complete another passenger locator form.
If you arrived in the UK before 15 December, you can opt into the scheme. Again, you’ll need to book a test with a private test provider and complete another passenger locator form. You cannot take the test until 5 full days after you left a place not on the travel corridor list.
Here’s a graphics provided by the government to show the time-scales.
Does everyone need to pay for a test?
If you’re opting into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to pay the private test provider for your test. You will need to book an individual test for each person opting into Test to Release, including children.
The test provider will either send a test to your address or you can attend a testing site. You may leave your house to post your test or to travel directly to and from the testing site.
Can I use NHS Test and Trace services?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: No, you cannot access NHS Test and Trace for this and you must use the private providers. You can be fined if you use a negative NHS test result to end your self-isolation period early.
The provider list
The full provider list is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing#test-to-release-for-international-travel.
The list as of the time of publication is this:
What if I don’t want to pay?
If you don’t want to pay, you’ll need to abide by the 10-day self-isolation requirements outside the Test to Release scheme.
Where can I find out more information?
Some useful links:
- Test to Release: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-test-to-release-for-international-travel
- List of Testing Providers: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing/list-of-private-providers-of-coronavirus-testing#test-to-release-for-international-travel
- Isolation Time Changes: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-chief-medical-officers-statement-on-the-self-isolation-period-11-december-2020
Testing is going to be part of life for some time to come
With countries requiring negative tests to enter them and others like the UK using isolation and testing post-arrival, testing is going to be a fact of life for some time to come – like it or not. Test and Release is not perfect, but it’s a step forward to cutting down the time you need to isolate.
The question is if the cost of a test is worth the reduced time in isolation you will need to spend when you return to England. Considering the costs of the tests, that’s something to keep in mind.
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