How amber arrivals can use Test to Release to reduce their quarantine period

May 31, 2021

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The U.K. government is shifting the way it enforces travel restrictions. With the introduction of the traffic light system, the U.K. is now categorising destinations in a red (high-risk), amber (medium-risk) or green (low-risk) category.

While arrivals from green list countries will not have to quarantine, however, those coming from amber and red list countries will need to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine. The difference is where they can undergo that quarantine. Red list arrivals must do theirs in a government-supervised hotel, while those coming from an amber list country can do theirs at their home or an accommodation of their choosing.

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The other major difference between the two is that those coming from amber list destinations can take an additional COVID-19 test to reduce their quarantine period. Red list arrivals, however, have to quarantine for the full period.

Related: All 173 countries and territories that are on the UK’s travel amber list

That’s because amber arrivals are entitled to England’s Test to Release scheme, which was originally unveiled in December 2020. With Test to Release, arrivals from amber countries can choose to have their quarantine period slashed from 10 days to at least five days.

Related: Can I go on holiday to an amber list country right now?

Before diving into the Test to Release requirements, let’s first review what is required for all amber arrivals to the U.K.:

  • Fill out a passenger locator form prior to departure;
  • Take a pre-departure COVID-19 test (can be from a lateral flow device) taken in the three days before departure;
  • Pre-book a COVID-19 test package to take PCR tests on days two and eight of quarantine; and
  • Quarantine for 10 days at home.

After five full days of quarantine, passengers who arrived in England from an amber destination will be able to test out of the remainder of their quarantine period. The traveller, provided they pay for the additional test themself from a government-approved private provider, will be able to leave quarantine if their test produces a negative result.

(Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Passengers entering England by plane, train or ferry who are planning to use the Test to Release strategy are required to book their test from a government-approved provider before they travel. Government-approved providers are listed on the gov.uk website. These passengers must still complete a passenger locator form before travelling to England.

On arrival, the amber passenger must head directly from the airport, ferry port or train station to their self-isolation location. After the fifth full day of quarantine, the passenger can then either take their at-home test or go to a provider’s testing site. Only on receipt of the negative result can the traveller then immediately leave their self-isolation.

It’s worth noting that if your Test to Release COVID-19 test comes back negative and you leave quarantine, you will still be required to take the third and final day-eight COVID-19 test.

Related: What kind of COVID-19 test do I need to travel and how much does it cost?

If your Test to Release test result — or any other test result during your quarantine period — comes back positive, you will need to quarantine for an additional full 10 days after the date you took the test or when you first had symptoms if that’s earlier. In that case, you will not need to take the day-eight test.

It’s worth noting that Test to Release is only available in England — not in the other devolved nations. Additionally, keep in mind that red list arrivals are not eligible for Test to Release.

Keep in mind that Test to Release is completely optional. If you’re OK with quarantining for a full 10 days, you can do so and just take the mandatory day two and day eight tests. However, if you want to exit quarantine earlier, Test to Release is a great option to consider.

You’ll want to consider the cost — the Test to Release PCR test will be an additional cost to the mandatory two tests post-arrival. According to the government’s website, prices for Test to Release tests range from £45 via Eurofins Forensic Services to more than £200.

For that reason, a Test to Release option for a family of four may not be an option, considering the cost of the mandatory tests. If you’re travelling from an amber destination, keep these testing price factors in mind.

Those who breach self-isolation rules on entering England will still be subject to steep fines. Travellers arriving from amber countries who breach quarantine can be fined £1,000 for first violations and up to £10,000 for subsequent breaches.

Featured photo by Adrian Dennis/Getty Images.

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