Last month we wrote about how the UK had reverted its ‘Day 2 test’ requirement for international passenger arrivals from an ART to a more expensive (but more accurate) PCR test, in the wake of the Omicron variant, while also adding a new self-isolation requirement for those awaiting their results.
That means travellers from Singapore using the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) on their UK trip can still enjoy a quarantine-free return to Singapore, but will now find themselves cooped up at home or in a hotel room for at least the first day of their trip.
That’s because most test providers are only issuing ‘Day 2’ PCR test results after around 24 hours, even though you can actually take the test any time from arrival (Day 0) to the end of your second full day in the country.
More expensive rapid 3-hour testing looked to be the solution, but as Rob at Head for Points noted earlier this month, the specific processing requirements laid out by the government for Day 2 PCR tests meant there simply wasn’t enough lab capacity to provide a rapid test service en masse.
Good news is that test providers have been modifying their processes over the last week or two to try and address this issue, and thankfully we’re now seeing rapid test options becoming available.
5-hour turnaround (Halo)
Halo at London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 (in the Sofitel, which is connected to the terminal) is offering Day 2 PCR tests at £59 (around S$106), with tests approved by the UK Government for Day 2 arrivals.
Halo is open at this location from 7am to 7pm daily.
- Tests taken between 7am and 6pm are scheduled for results delivery within 5 hours.
- Tests taken between 6pm and 7pm are scheduled for results delivery by 6am the following day.
If you’re arriving on Singapore Airlines into Heathrow Terminal 2, you can take the Heathrow Express train or an underground train to Terminal 5 for free, then follow signs for the Sofitel, via a connected walkway from the Zone A check-in hall.
Same-day turnaround (Collinson)
Collinson is also one of the first to market a new ‘Day 2 PCR Premium’ test option for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK, offering same-day results.
- If you are tested before 6pm, you’ll receive results the same day (by midnight).
- If you are tested after 6pm, you’ll receive the results by 6am the next day.
This new Day 2 test option was initially available at London St Pancras station, the O2 Arena and London City Airport, but as of today (9th December 2021) it has been rolled out to several UK airports including London Heathrow and Manchester.
The test is available for a discounted fee of £79.20 (around S$143), which certainly isn’t cheap, but you’ll be free from self-isolation relatively quickly with this one, and able to get on with enjoying your trip.
The downside for those arriving into Heathrow Airport is that this Collinson option is a ‘Park and Test’ location, just outside the airport on Bath Road, close to most car hire pickup / drop-off locations.
This is more ideal if you’re hiring a car and driving to your final destination (where you’ll also be self isolating, but not for too long hopefully).
For those staying in central London, Collinson’s St Pancras station or O2 Arena locations may be a better bet.
At Manchester Airport, the Collinson testing location is at a walk-through testing centre, located in the Manchester Airport train station, which is connected by link bridge from all terminals.
With Collinson, make sure to select the ‘Arrival Day 2 Premium PCR Fully Vaccinated’ option priced at £99 when booking.
At the the checkout stage, you’ll need to enter promo code ‘MANTEST‘ to get the 20% discount from £99 to £79.20 (whatever testing location you have chosen).
You still need a pre-departure test
Unfortunately if you’re heading to the UK from Singapore you are still on the hook for a pre-departure COVID-19 test within two days of your flight.
For example, if you are flying on SQ322 to London at 23:45 on a Wednesday, the test must be taken on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (the day of the flight and up to two days before).
If you are taking a multi-leg journey, for example Singapore – Dubai – London, the test timing applies as the two days before departure of the first leg (i.e. SIN-DXB in this case).
The test can be a PCR or a cheaper ART. We recently updated our comprehensive analysis of the cheapest options for pre-departure tests in Singapore.
Our advice? Pick the cheaper ART test option. If recent reader reports over the last few days are anything to go by, neither Singapore Airlines nor UK immigration even ask to see your pre-departure test – so there’s certainly no point forking out over S$100 for a PCR!
Testing back in Singapore has been beefed up
On your return from the UK (or any VTL country), you’ll now face the usual on-arrival PCR test at Changi Airport plus six additional COVID-19 ART tests on Days 2 to 7 after your arrival day (Day 1).
These take the form of either self-declared home ART swabs (Days 2, 4, 5 & 6) or a supervised self-administered ART test at one of over 40 Quick Test Centres (QTCs) / Combined Test Centres (CTCs) on Day 3 and Day 7.
We recently outlined full details for these tests, with the latest regime effective for arrivals from 7th December 2021.
VTL flights UK – Singapore
Here’s a list of the VTL (and non-VTL) flights from the UK to Singapore, which you’ll need to use on your return journey to benefit from quarantine-free arrival in the Lion City, assuming you are also returning from from UK (click to expand):
Total testing costs
In addition to the new pre-departure test requirement, there are now ten COVID-19 tests on a roundtrip from Singapore to the UK.
Here’s how the approximate total testing costs for the journey now look, including one of faster UK ‘Day 2’ PCR tests we’ve outlined in this article.
|Singapore pre-departure (ART)*||~S$30|
|UK ‘Day 2’ (PCR)||~S$106-S$143|
|UK pre-departure (ART)*||~S$30|
|Singapore arrival (PCR)||S$125|
|Total||S$349 – S$386|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
You’re now looking at around S$350 to S$390 per traveller in addition to flight and hotel expenses, for a trip like this, assuming you opt for one of the new faster ‘Day 2’ arrival tests in the UK.
What about children?
- The UK’s pre-departure test doesn’t need to be taken by children aged 11 and under.
- Children aged 4 and under are exempt from the UK’s ‘Day 2 test’.
- Singapore’s post-arrival tests don’t need to be taken by children aged 2 or under in the calendar year.
Yay for consistency.
Major COVID-19 Test providers in the UK were caught a little unaware by the government’s announcement that ‘Day 2 tests’ would not only revert from ART to PCR, but would need to be of a higher standard allowing ‘sequencing’ in the event of positive cases due to Omicron.
That put pay to existing rapid PCR test options almost immediately, due to lab capacity.
Thankfully there are now some reasonably priced options here, with Halo at London Heathrow Terminal 5 and Collinson at Heathrow, Manchester, other UK airports and some central London locations now offering ‘Day 2 tests’ with turnaround times of 5 hours, or on the same day, in the £59 to £79 price range.
This will allow you freedom to get on with your UK trip much more quickly, without being confined to your hotel room for a day or more.
We also expect other providers will also be offering rapid turnaround ‘Day 2 tests’ in the coming days and weeks.
(Cover Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)