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Covid: Lateral flow tests to replace PCRs for vaccinated travellers from Sunday 24 October

Vaccinated travellers entering England from abroad will be able to take a day two lateral flow test instead of a more expensive PCR test from Sunday 24 October, in a move by the UK Government to make going abroad cheaper and easier ahead of October half-term.

Passengers will be able to book the lateral flow tests from Friday 22 October. Lateral flow tests provided by the NHS cannot be used for international travel.

All vaccinated travellers arriving in England from a non red-list country will be able to order the cheaper lateral flow tests from a list of approved providers, which will be published by the Government on Friday 22 October. We will update this story and add a link to the list once it is available.

Passengers will need to take a photo of the result of their lateral flow test, as well as the booking reference supplied by the testing company, and send it back to the provider to verify the result. Some passengers will also be able to take the lateral flow test when they arrive at some UK airports, although the Government has not released anymore specific details on this just yet.

For a detailed breakdown of the cheapest providers of lateral flow and PCR tests visit our Cheap Tests Guide.

Those who have already bought a PCR test do not need to buy another.

Anyone who tests positive when taking their lateral flow test will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test. PCR tests can be accessed free of charge by ordering in the usual way through NHS Test and Trace. This can be done via the NHS website or by calling 119. 

Passengers who are not fully vaccinated and are returning from a non red-list destination must still take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and a day eight test, as well as completing 10 days of self-isolation. Travellers can also opt to use the Test to Release scheme on day five, paying privately for a PCR test in order to end the 10 days of self-isolation early if they get a negative result.

For more information on what to do if you're travelling unvaccinated and for the breakdown on coronavirus travel policies visit our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

Sajid Javid, the health and social care secretary, said: "We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you’re travelling for work or visiting friends and family. Lateral flow tests will be available later this month for those returning from half term holidays.

"This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination programme, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus."

Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, added: "Today’s rule changes will make testing on arrival simpler and cheaper for people across the country who are looking forward to well-earned breaks for this October half term.

"Taking away expensive mandatory PCR testing will boost the travel industry and is a major step forward in normalising international travel and encouraging people to book holidays with confidence."


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