Guidance

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

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

Countries subject to bans on travel to the UK

The Test to Release scheme is not available to anyone who has been in or through any country that is subject to a travel ban in the 10 days before arrival in England.

If you arrive in England and have been somewhere that is subject to a travel ban during the last 10 days you must complete a passenger locator form and self-isolate along with members of your household.

How the scheme works

Anyone who arrives in England from outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man needs to self-isolate for 10 days.

Under the scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating.

You cannot take a test until you have been in England for 5 full days.

The scheme is voluntary and applies to those self-isolating in England only.

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

How to take part in the scheme

To take part in the scheme you need to:

You will be asked to enter details of your test in the passenger locator form. You must do this to take part in the scheme.

You should book your test before you travel to England. This is so you can enter details of the test when you opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form.

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

Scheme rules

You must self-isolate on arrival in England. You can take a test after 5 full days of self-isolation.

Example

You leave a country on Monday morning and arrive in England on Monday afternoon. Tuesday will be your first full day of self-isolation. You can take a test no earlier than your 5th full day of self-isolation - Saturday. You must continue to self-isolate while you await your test result.

If you test negative

If the test result is negative you can stop self-isolating as soon as you receive the result.

If you test positive for COVID-19

If the test is positive you need to self-isolate for another 10 days. Count the 10 days starting from the day 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 self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your positive test.

If your test is inconclusive

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

You may be fined if you do not self-isolate. 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 & 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 are told to self-isolate via an NHS app

Self-isolate immediately if you are told to by the NHS Test and Trace app 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 the NHS Test and Trace app or the NHS COVID-19 app NHS 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 the NHS Test and Trace app 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 & Trace to shorten your self-isolation period. You must continue to self-isolate if the result from an NHS Test & 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 self-isolate on arrival in England. You don’t need to self-isolate if your job is listed as being exempt from the requirement to self-isolate.

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

Why self-isolating is important

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

Graphic showing examples of self-isolation periods

Graphic showing self-isolation periods as described in this guidance. You can view a larger version.

Graphic showing self-isolation periods as described in this guidance.
Published 27 November 2020
Last updated 18 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Removed reference to travel corridors.

  2. 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.

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

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

  5. Link to list of private test providers added.

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

  7. First published.