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Booking a UK Covid test to comply with new France to UK travel rules

New rules on Covid testing for arrivals in the UK come into force from the early hours of Tuesday; we look at how to book the test you will need

Everyone arriving in the UK from Tuesday morning must take a PCR Covid test Pic: Noiel / Shutterstock

Reader question: With new rules for testing and isolation for visits from France to the UK, how long can I expect to isolate before the test result arrives? Does it cost more to do a PCR at a centre in person and will there be huge waits for this?

The new rules for arrivals in the UK state that you need to have a test on or before day two after arrival (the day of arrival is classed as day zero), that this must be a PCR test and that you must quarantine until you have a negative result.

They apply if you are arriving in England from 4:00 on Tuesday November 30.

These rules, brought in due to fears about the new omicron variant, are tougher than the previous rules which did not require vaccinated people to observe a quarantine. 

A ‘day two’ test was previously required, but this could optionally be a self-test using an antigen (also known as ‘lateral flow’) kit at home, self-recording the result on a website afterwards.

PCR tests require you to take the test in a centre, or to self-administer a test at home and then post the test kit away for analysis.

Some testing centres promise results in 24 hours, others 48. So, it is possible to receive the results by email on the following day, that is either the day after you take a test in person at a centre, or the day after test results are received in the post.

In other words, the quickest method will be to go to a centre after you arrive in the UK. If it provides results in 24 hours, you may only have to quarantine for the day of arrival and following day, at most.

If, instead, you opt to have a kit sent to the place you will be staying in the UK, there will be postage times to account for. For example, if you arrive at your destination on a Thursday and post off the kit the next morning, it will not arrive at the earliest until the Friday, with results by the Saturday night, if all works efficiently.

Most centres use special fast Royal Mail postage with next-day delivery.

However, if your arrival falls during, or just before, the weekend or bank holidays there will be additional delays.

Costs vary widely and you can find a government list of providers at this link.

For example, at screen4.org a day two in-clinic appointment with the test done by a professional costs £65, whereas a test sent to your home is £50.

Several clinics have cut-price offers where you administer your own swab on-site as opposed to it being done by a professional, for example the website expertdoctors.uk quotes £15 to do this with ‘supervision’ and unsupervised self-swabbing for £0.95.

There is no explanation for this huge divergence in prices, depending on the chosen test method, however we would recommend at least double-checking that the test offered is PCR not antigen/lateral flow.

As for wait times for booking at a clinic, we would advise booking as soon as possible so as to get the location and time that suits your plans.

A Connexion staff member was easily able to book a Christmas Eve test today at a London site at their chosen time. However, if you are not able to take a test in a large urban centre then your choices of location and available appointments will be more limited.

Previous articles

New omicron variant: PCR and isolation for UK arrivals from France 

Covid: Rules for travel to and from France 

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