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How coronavirus test prices compare now travellers arriving in England can cut quarantine time with a negative result

Travellers arriving in the UK from today can cut mandatory quarantine if they get a negative coronavirus test result from one of the Government's list of private Covid-19 test providers. But with prices ranging from £90 to almost £300 a test, here's a round-up of what you could end up paying.  

Until today (Tuesday 15 December), people arriving in England from countries that aren't on the Government's travel corridor list have needed to self-isolate - originally for 14 days, although this dropped to 10 days from 14 December. But under a new "Test to Release" scheme that comes into force today, travellers can now take a private Covid-19 test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from quarantine. 

To help, the Government has published a list of private test providers, which meet the required standard for the scheme - but prices vary wildly, with tests from some providers costing over three times as much as others. And there will be other considerations, such as how long the results take to arrive - which can vary from less than 24 hours to three days - and whether you need to attend a clinic in person. Full details in the table below.

This test is only for those seeking to avoid quarantine after being abroad though, and can't be used to cut self-isolation as advised by NHS Test and Trace or by the Covid-19 app. You can also only use one of the providers on the Government's list. If you use an NHS test to end your holiday self-isolation period you could be fined. 

See our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide for more info on how trips might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, plus our 15+ Holiday Destinations guide for info on quarantine and entry requirements for different locations. Plus, it's worth remembering that all overseas holidays are banned for people living in some areas of the UK - we've full help on local restrictions

How much do private coronavirus tests cost?

 The below table includes the price and turnaround time of all the providers listed by the Government as offering "test to release" services, though as the scheme only launched today, some providers haven't yet made their services live, while others have been overwhelmed by early demand and paused orders or have run out of stock.

The Government is also continuing to add new providers to its list, so check directly for up-to-date information.

The cost of coronavirus tests at Government-approved providers

Provider Cost Turnaround time Test in clinic or by post?
Chronomics £120 Within 24-36 hours of being received at lab Post
Collinson (1) Waiting to hear Waiting to hear Waiting to hear
DNA Workplace £99 + VAT Within 24-48 hours of being received at lab Post or courier
Halo Verify (2) £89 Within 24 hours of being received at lab Post
Medicspot (1) Waiting to hear By 11pm on day after test Waiting to hear
Nationwide Pathology Waiting to hear  Waiting to hear Waiting to hear
Oncologica £95 Within 2-3 days of returning sample Post or courier
Prenetics/iDNA £119 Within 24 hours of being received at lab Post
Private GP Clinic £120 Waiting to hear Waiting to hear
Screen 4 £120 Within 2-3 days of test appointment Clinic
SYNLAB £99.99 (reduced price of £59.99 if travelling into Bristol Airport) Within 48 hours of returning sample Post
The London General Practice £295 Within 24-48 hours (or within 1 hour for rapid tests, which must be taken at a clinic) Clinic or courier

Table correct at 15 Dec 2020. (1) Not yet available for Test to Release. (2) Out of stock. 

How does the Test to Release scheme work?

Under the new rules, passengers who arrive from a foreign country that's not on the Government's travel corridor list need to enter self-isolation on return to England for at least five days before they can be tested. This is because coronavirus can have an incubation period before it's detected.

The Government advises you book the coronavirus test before you travel to the UK to ensure you can take it on the fifth day after arrival. If you arrive on a Sunday, for example, you can take your test on the following Friday.

You can book a test from one of the providers listed on the Government website. Do this prior to arrival and you need to state it on your passenger locator form and then go straight into self-isolation at home for at least the first five days. Opt in for the test after arrival and you will need to resubmit your passenger locator form detailing this and self-isolate until you get the test result.

Once you have the result, you can leave isolation as long as the result is negative. As it typically takes 24 to 48 hours from taking the test to get the result, you'll likely cut your isolation period to around six to seven days.

If the result is positive, self-isolation will be needed. In line with NHS guidance, if you had coronavirus symptoms before you took your test and it's positive, you'll need to isolate for 10 days from when they started. If you get symptoms after your test, self-isolate for ten days from when your symptoms started. If you don't show any symptoms but have a positive test (asymptomatic), you need to self-isolate for 10 days from taking the test.

Do I have to pay for a test?

If you don't want to pay for a test, you'll have to self-isolate for the full 10 days. In England, if you do not self-isolate, you can receive a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 for a first offence, increasing to £2,000 for any second offence. Further repeat offences will attract penalties of £4,000 and then £10,000 for each repeat offence.

These rules only apply in England, although if you live elsewhere in the UK you'll also have to self-isolate for 10 days on your return - but bear in mind Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have established their own separate travel corridors to England.

You won't need a test if you come into England from a country on the Government's travel corridor safe list as here you don't need to quarantine.

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