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UK’s New Test To Release Program: Step by Step Guide

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The UK government has officially launched the ‘Test to Release’ program for arrivals into England as of December 15, 2020.

The Test To Release program allows arrivals into England to perform a PCR test in order to shorten quarantine times from the standard 10 days, down to as short as 5 days.

UK england covid test

However, participating in the program isn’t as easy as showing up at the airport, as there are many procedures and forms that need to be done ahead of time. All travelers into England, whether citizens returning or tourists arriving, need to be aware of how the ‘Test To Release’ program works in order to best take advantage of it.

Below we have a step-by-step guide on exactly how to use the Test To Release scheme and everything else you might need to know to make your entry as smooth as possible.

Traveler at airport mask

What is the ‘Test To Release’ program?

The new Test To Release program is a way to shorten the blanket 10-day quarantine that all travelers face when arriving in England from a high-risk country.

The program allows travelers to agree to a 5-day quarantine with a PCR test on the 5th day, in which a negative result will release the traveler from self-isolation, making the total time in isolation 57 days (depending on result times) instead of 10 days.

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How To Use The ‘Test To Release’ Program – Step-by-Step

1. Book Your Test Before Arrival

Before traveling into England, all passengers who wish to participate in the Test To Release program should pre-book or pre-order their test ahead of time.

Calculate what day would be a full 5 days from your date of arrival into England and book the test on that 5th day.

You can only use government-approved private testing partners. 

2. Fill Out The Passenger Locator Form

The Passenger Locator Form is a mandatory form required for all arrivals into the UK.

The online form will ask for details like passport number, address where you will be staying, and the booking reference and test provider for your Day 5 PCR test. Filling out the testing information will effectively ‘enroll’ you into the Test To Release program.

The form needs to be submitted any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK.

After the Passenger Locator Form is completed, a QR code will be generated that you use to show customs upon arrival.

3. Self-Isolate / Quarantine Upon Arrival

Once you enter England, you are directed to travel directly to the place you are staying and immediately self-isolate/quarantine.

In England, if you do not self-isolate, you could be fined £1,000 for a first offence and £2,000 for a second offence. Further repeat offences will attract penalties of £4,000 and then £10,000 for each repeat offence.

england uk isolation

4. Testing on the 5th day

On the 5th day of isolation, you can now perform the test that you pre-booked. A test kit will either be sent to your home, a provider will visit your home, or you will have to travel to the test provider.

If you must leave isolation to travel to the test provider or to mail your test back to a provider, you can do so in the most direct way without any other stops, wearing a mask at all times, and immediately return to isolation.

5. Wait Until Test Results

Once you have performed the test, you must wait for confirmation of negative results before you can leave isolation/quarantine.

Some test providers might offer same day results, while others might take 24-48 hours.

6. Negative Result = End Of Isolation

If you receive your negative result, you can now leave isolation/quarantine.

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Is the program voluntary?


The test to release program is 100% voluntary. For anyone not wanting to participate, they will need to complete the full 10-day quarantine upon arrival into England from a non-corridor country.

What are the travel corridor countries?

When passengers are arriving into England after spending at least 10 days in an official travel corridor country, they do not have to self-isolate or participate in the test to release program.

The list is updated weekly by the Department for Transport HERE

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Is there a cost for using the Test To Release program?


The cost of the program is associated with the private PCR test all arrivals will need to perform on the 5th day of isolation. The fee is set by the test provider and ranges from £89 to £160.

Which private test providers can I use?

UK.GOV has released a list of government-approved private testing companies. Travelers are asked to pre-book and pre-pay for their test before arriving into England so that they can fill out the passenger locator form with the testing details.

Can I use NHS and get a free test?


Free tests administered by NHS cannot be used for the Test To Release program.

man taking covid test

What if my test says I am positive?

If your test comes back positive you cannot leave self-isolation and must continue to quarantine for an additional 10-days from the date of receiving your positive result.

What if my test didn’t work or came back inconclusive?

If your test was inconclusive you will have to complete the full 10-days of isolation or re-take the test.

What if I decide to participate in the Test To Release program AFTER I’ve already arrived into England?

You can enroll/participate in the Test To Release program after arrival as long as you complete a NEW Passenger Locator Form.

Is the Test To Release Program for citizens or tourists?


All arrivals into England, whether British citizens/residents or foreign tourists, may participate in the Test To Release program.

When did the Quarantine Period become 10 days instead of 14?

The 14-day quarantine for all passengers arriving into the UK from a non-corridor country was shortened to 10 days on December 14, 2020.

What are the other Entry Requirements fot the UK?

Please read our guide: “UK Covid Entry Requirements For Travelers”

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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


Tuesday 15th of December 2020

Not even close to worth it. We're just going to wait until they reduce "quarantine" to 0 days. Better yet, we're just not going to the UK for any reason.