48 hours or 2 days? The UK Gov’s confusing and conflicting pre-departure testing explained

Dec 8, 2021

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Travellers visiting the U.K and Brits returning from holidays have been left confused after the U.K. government released conflicting statements on the timings of new pre-departure testing requirements.

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The new U.K.regulations, which came into play on Tuesday, forced many travellers to rush to order last-minute testing ahead of flights to the U.K. Adding to the stress of test booking, many were befuddled as to whether they needed to be tested 48 hours before travel or two days. We can now confirm that as per the official government guidance that the rule is 2 days before travel.

The confusion stemmed from conflicting advice given by different U.K. government publications, including a wrongly worded press release and the health secretary Sajid Javid stating that the test must be taken 48 hours before travel.

Related: 5 things you need to know about UK’s new Omicron travel measures

This was then bolstered by official tweets from the Department of Health and Social care reiterating the wrong advice. At the time of publication, these tweets are still live.

The U.K. government’s online travel guidance states that the timeframe is two days before departure, although at the time of initial publication the rules were still unclear, allowing for a snowball effect across various media reporting conflicting travel advice.

According to The Mirror, at one point the Foreign Office told one passenger to ignore the press release detailing the new rules and follow their published guidance online.

The discrepancy may seem minor but could cause serious disruption to travel plans and even stop some passengers from being able to board their flights.

For example – in the 2 days window – were your flight to leave at 11 am on Friday and your test was taken at 9 am on Wednesday, you would still be able to board your flight if you took your test 2 days prior to flying. However, if the rule was 48 hours you wouldn’t be permitted to board your flight as your test would have fallen two hours outside of the 48 hour window.

When TPG UK reached out to the Department of Health for clarification they said: “You must take the test in the two days before your service to England departs.”

“If you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.”

They also clarified that if you are embarking on a multi-leg journey to England you can take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg.

To be clear: pre-departure tests before travelling to the U.K. should be taken up to 2 days before travelling, not 48 hours.

Featured image by Getty.

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