Holidays: How to get a covid test for travel as UK announces strict new entry rules

Travel testing: Shapps reveals 'concerns' over South African variant

Holidays were already highly complex but now even more new rules have been heaped onto the existing pile of restrictions. Minister of Transport Grant Shapps unveiled the new measures to limit the spread of coronavirus today. Speaking on Sky News he said: “If you are coming here from anywhere, whether you are a Briton or whether you’re a foreign national then you will need to take a covid test up to 72 hours before you come here.”

The rules apply to anyone entering the country whether by plane, train or ferry.

Anyone who doesn’t show proof of a negative test won’t be able to board their plane.

“As long as [the test is] negative, then they can fly, but they can’t board the plane, for example, without having that negative test,” Shapps told BBC.

“Airlines have a responsibility to make sure that people don’t fly without having forms,” he added, explaining that not only will people be fined £500 for not have the test, but airlines will also be penalised.

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The new rules are likely to spark concern in travellers – how does one go about booking a test in a foreign country? This is the latest travel advice.

Currently, the national lockdown means Britons cannot travel so this shouldn’t be an immediate concern for most holidaymakers whose plans have been put on hold.

What’s more, John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer at Heathrow Airport, told BBC this morning that he hopes this isn’t a permanent restriction.

“Hopefully this will be a short term measure,” he said, adding that as vaccinations are further rolled out and the infection levels drop, “then we will see new measures coming in or a reduction in the measures that the government has put in place.”

However, while this “belts and braces” measure remains (it comes on top of the 10-day quarantine) those who do travel abroad need to be careful.

Holland-Kaye warned: “There are many airports around the world that don’t have testing facilities,” he said.

“So if you’re caught out in one of those countries, and you now have these new requirements, then you’ll find it quite difficult to get the tests that are needed in order to come back home again.”

To combat this issue, Michael Asher, Chairman & CEO at testing service Better2Know Ltd, has advised travellers to check the testing situation at their destination ahead of going abroad.

“Because significant fines can be imposed on anyone not testing prior to embarkation, our advice to any traveller would be to find out where they can get tested overseas before setting off on their travels,” he told

“Availability of testing will vary by country and may not be easily accessed by non-residents.”

Holland-Kaye said this morning that he hopes other countries will follow in the UK’s lead which will facilitate testing abroad.

“This is where I think the government can take a lead globally in trying to set some common international standards in what the testing regime should be,” he told BBC.

“What we’ve seen over the last few months is that countries around the world have introduced pre-departure testing but they all have a slightly different set of measures that they’re looking for, different ways in which they have to be validated – and it’s very confusing for passengers.”

The Heathrow boss added that he hoped that tougher testing measures would eventually eradicate the need to quarantine.

“You can imagine that over the next few months we can have a situation where people are testing 72 hours before they fly, they are quarantining at home, and then having another test at the airport,” said Holland-Kaye.

“Then they can travel to their destination with confidence knowing that nobody on the plane has covid, and knowing that they won’t be required to quarantine when they get to their destination.

“That’ll be a much better way so that all of us could start to travel with confidence, not just for a holiday, but going on business or visiting friends and relatives.”

For those getting tested in the UK ahead of travel, prices for private tests generally range between £100 and £150.

Travellers are urged not to use the NHS testing service.

“There are multiple test providers in the UK, but not all of them can supply the relevant paperwork for travel to certain destinations,” Alex Templeton, CEO of healthcare and testing provider Qured, told

“Which type of test you pick will depend on requirements for your specific journey and how urgently you need your results.”

He continued: “Once you have completed your home test, the next step is to return your test to the lab.

“We recommend, and offer as part of our service, Royal Mail Next Day Tracked, to ensure timely receipt and safe.

“If timings are very tight, you can also send via a same-day courier, although will add to the cost.”

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