Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Test to Release for international travel

Pay for a COVID-19 test to find out if you can reduce your quarantine period after international travel.

How the Test to Release scheme works

If you have been in a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before you arrive in England you must quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

Under the Test to Release scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can end your quarantine.

You cannot take your Test to Release test until you have been in England for 5 full days.

The scheme is voluntary and applies to those quarantining in England only.

If you do not want to opt into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to quarantine for 10 days.

You cannot take part in the scheme if you have been in or through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England.

How to take part in the scheme

To take part in the scheme you need to:

  1. Book a test before you travel to England.

  2. Enter details of your test in the passenger locator form.

You will have to pay the private test provider for your test. You will need to book an individual test for each person opting into Test to Release, including children.

The test provider will either send a test to your address or you can attend a testing site. You may leave your house to post your test or to travel directly to and from the testing site. You should follow safer travel guidance and avoid public transport if possible.

If you choose Test to Release, you must still book and take your 2 compulsory travel tests. You can book Test to Release at the same time as your compulsory tests.

If you decide to take part in the scheme after you have arrived in England, you will need to complete another passenger locator form.

Quarantine rules

You must quarantine on arrival in England. You can take a test no earlier than the 5th day after arrival in England.

Example

You arrive in England on Monday. Tuesday will be your first full day of quarantine. You can take a test no earlier than the 5th day after arrival in England - Saturday. You must continue to quarantine while you await your test result.

If you test negative

If the test result is negative you can stop quarantine as soon as you receive the result.

You still need to take the compulsory test on or after day 8.

If you test positive for COVID-19

If the test is positive you need to quarantine for another 10 days. Count the 10 days starting from the day after you took the test, or from when you first had symptoms if that is earlier.

People you live with in the UK, or people you are staying with, should also quarantine for 10 days from the date of your positive test.

You do not need to take the coronavirus test on or after day 8.

If your test is inconclusive

If the result from your test is inconclusive you must continue to quarantine. You can choose to take another privately provided test to find out if you can stop quarantine early.

You may be fined if you do not quarantine. The fine is £1,000 for the first time, up to £10,000 for further breaches.

NHS Test & Trace tests

You cannot use tests provided by NHS Test and Trace under this scheme. Use one of listed private test providers. You can be fined if you use a negative NHS test result to end your self-isolation period early.

If you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app

Self-isolate immediately if you are told to by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app.

This applies even if you have had a negative test result under the Test to Release scheme and stopped self-isolating.

If you are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app before you take a test under the Test to Release scheme, you should:

  • cancel your test
  • continue self-isolating for 10 days from when you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for coronavirus

Read the rules about self-isolating if you’re told to do so by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app.

If you have coronavirus symptoms

If you have coronavirus symptoms then you should take an NHS Test and Trace test as soon as you can. You should take an NHS Test and Trace test even if you have recently received a negative result for another test.

You cannot use a test taken through NHS Test and Trace to shorten your self-isolation period. You must continue to self-isolate if the result from an NHS Test and Trace test is negative.

Read about self-isolating following a positive test result.

Exempt jobs

The Test to Release scheme is for people who need to quarantine on arrival in England. You don’t need to quarantine if your job is listed as being exempt from the requirement to quarantine.

You can also opt in to the Test to Release scheme if you have a qualified exemption and are only allowed to leave quarantine for some, work-related activities. For example, seasonal agricultural workers.

Why quarantine is important

Quarantining will help prevent family, friends and the community from contracting coronavirus, as well as helping to protect the NHS.

Published 27 November 2020
Last updated 17 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. New green list and amber list rules introduced.

  2. New testing, self-isolation and quarantine rules from 15 February.

  3. Removed reference to travel corridors.

  4. All arrivals from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela must self-isolate.

  5. All arrivals from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe must self-isolate.

  6. All arrivals from South Africa must self-isolate.

  7. Link to list of private test providers added.

  8. Self-isolation period on arrival in England changed from 14 days to 10 days.

  9. First published.