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.

Applies to England

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.

Amber list rules if you are fully vaccinated

You do not need to quarantine or take a day 8 test after you arrive in England if you are fully vaccinated under either:

  • the UK vaccination programme
  • the UK vaccine programme overseas
  • an approved vaccination programme in Europe or the USA

This also applies if you are:

  • taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA
  • under 18 and resident in the UK, a UK Overseas Territory, the USA or one of the specified European countries

You still need to book a day 2 test and take the test if you are still in England.

Find out how to prove you are fully vaccinated, which European countries this applies to and approved vaccination programmes in Europe and the USA.

Under the Test to Release scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test on day 5. If the result is negative (and the result of your day 2 test result was negative or inconclusive) 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 of all ages.

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 result for your day 5 test is negative (and the result of your day 2 test result was negative or inconclusive) 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 a further 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

If NHS Test and Trace notify you that you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days, unless you’re either:

  • fully vaccinated under the UK or UK overseas vaccination programme
  • under the age of 18 years and 6 months
  • taking part in an approved UK COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

If you are not exempt from self-isolating for any of the above reasons, you must self-isolate immediately.

You must do this 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 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 further guidance on what to do if you’re contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

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.

International travel overview

Read an overview of all the things you need to do to:

Published 27 November 2020
Last updated 19 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated information on what to do if NHS Test and Trace notify you that you've been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

  2. Changes to amber list rules on quarantine and testing.

  3. New green list and amber list rules introduced.

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

  5. Removed reference to travel corridors.

  6. 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.

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

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

  9. Link to list of private test providers added.

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

  11. First published.