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UK To Require PCR Test For Entry

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Major changes are coming down the pipe for entry requirements into the United Kingdom as a new mandatory PCR test will soon be enforced.

Since June 8, 2020 the UK has been allowing all nations to enter the country with essentially the same set of unchanged entry rules. Requirements for both foreigners and citizens include filling out a passenger locator form and agreeing to self-isolate upon arrival when entering from a non-corridor country.

Now the government has given notice that rules will become increasingly difficult with the addition of a PCR test requirement for entry. All passengers arriving into the UK will have to show proof of a negative PCR test, taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival.

While the new rule was originally thought to include all arrivals into the UK, recent reports show some government figures are pressing for British nationals and residents  exempt, which would make the rule in effect for only foreigners

Update Jan 8: The new 72-hour PCR test requirement is in fact required from all arrivals, both foreigners and UK citizens. 

Passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500 if they fail to comply with the new regulations. All passengers arriving from countries not on the government’s travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their PCR test result.

PCR test swab

The addition of the 72-hour PCR test requirement is not an alternative to the compulsory self-isolation requirement, which will still be in effect.

All arrivals into the UK must self-isolate for 10-days, which was shortened from 14 days on December 14, 2020.

Arrivals into England have the option of participating in the Test To Release program, in which performing a PCR test on Day 5 of quarantine and receiving the negative result will release the passenger early from quarantine.

The 72-hour PCR test will act as an increased method for stopping the spread of the virus and will not circumvent the 10-day quarantine rule.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Good Morning Britain on January 5 that the government’s decision regarding the PCR testing requirement will soon become public.

“We will be making announcements later today and in the days ahead about how we will make sure that our ports and airports are safe. It is already the case that there are significant restrictions on people coming into this country and of course we're stressing that nobody should be travelling abroad. But I don't want to pre-empt the specific advice that is going to be given.”

uk lockdown pcr

 Paul Charles of the PC Agency, who has been covering UK travel restrictions in great detail since the start of the pandemic, believesd the new rule will not affect citizens of the UK and will only be required from foreign arrivals. 

Update Jan 8: The Department of Transportation confirmed the news of the PCR test requirement today. Passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500 if they fail to comply with the new regulations on pre-departure testing

News of the addition of a pre-entry PCR test requirement is just another blow the UK is receiving this week as the nation goes into lockdown. Currently, both international and domestic travel for leisure is completely banned, with all residents being asked to remain at home.

The lockdown went into effect as of midnight on January 5th, 2021 and is expected to last until the middle of February. Travelers, who are British nationals, will not be permitted to leave the country unless they have a legal reason to do so. All UK citizens must follow stay at home orders.

Read More:

The UK's test to release program that can shorten quarantine to 5 days

→ All entry requirements for travelers visiting the UK during the pandemic

UK lockdown in 2021, everything you need to know

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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


Monday 11th of January 2021

How does this affect passengers in transit? Will it be possible to transit at, e.g., Heathrow without a negative PCR test result?

Best regards Martin

Kashlee Kucheran

Monday 11th of January 2021

From the information I have, I beieve the PCR test is NOT needed for people transiting, as long as they are not going through customs/entering the UK. The 'passenger locator form' IS still needed for transit passengers though


Thursday 7th of January 2021

The US stopped testing because it did not work. They banned UK, Europe, Brazil etc and have quarantine place for US citizens. We need to do same.


Tuesday 5th of January 2021

pointless PCR tests...75%+ false positive/too high cycle count.


Tuesday 5th of January 2021

The problem is not getting into the UK. The problem is getting out.


Tuesday 5th of January 2021

I would also not travel to countries in lockdown to be honest. I'd like to eat and drink out and visit national parks, museums, cinema's etc: not possible when everything is closed :-(. Also wearing a face-mask all the time is quite uncomfortable in my opinion.