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UK VTL: England scraps COVID-19 pre-departure test and arrival isolation

Great news: Those travelling from Singapore to the UK will no longer require a pre-departure test from 7th January, with the post-arrival self-isolation requirement also scrapped.

Last month the United Kingdom (UK) joined a growing number of countries on Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) list adding a pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement for overseas arrivals, in response to a global spread of the Omicron variant.

Good news for those heading to the UK this year is that the pre-departure test requirement is being scrapped for those entering England from 4am on Friday 7th January 2022, saving travellers the inconvenience and cost of arranging this test before their flight.

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The UK Government has decided that the rapid spread of Omicron within the country has effectively rendered the measure redundant.

The UK’s post arrival Day 2 test is still in force, however the requirement to self-isolate until receiving a negative result (which meant a ‘quarantine’ of 24 hours in some cases) has also thankfully been scrapped for arrivals from 4am on Friday 7th January 2022.

Travellers will instead be free to roam immediately upon arrival from that date.

(Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)

If you’re taking a non-stop flight from Singapore to the UK, the first services which will not require a pre-departure test nor self-isolation after arrival are:

  • BA12 SIN-LHR at 11pm on 6th January
  • SQ322 SIN-LHR at 11.45pm on 6th January
  • SQ52 SIN-MAN at 1.30am on 7th January

Full details of the new arrival requirements are available here.

Day 2 test

Abolishing the pre-departure test for those travelling to the UK is certainly good news, but it’s the changes to the (slightly complicated) Day 2 test that are of most value here.

Currently this takes the form of a post-arrival PCR test you must pre-book and take any time from arrival (Day 0) to Day 2, which also requires a self-isolation period, potentially of up to 24 hours even if you take a test at the airport as soon as you land in the UK, while you await the test results.

Typically, a Day 2 PCR test costs around £69 (~S$125).

For arrivals from 4am on Friday 7th January 2022, self-isolation will no longer be required on arrival in England.

For arrivals from 4am on Sunday 9th January 2022, which confusingly is two days after the pre-departure test requirement and self-isolation requirement is dropped, the Day 2 test is also replaced with a cheaper and quicker lateral flow (ART) method if you prefer.

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You must still source this test through a private provider in the UK before departure, and quote the reference number on your Passenger Locator Form, in order to check-in for your flight.

Typically, a Day 2 lateral flow (ART) test costs around £16 (~S$30).

Here’s the Day 2 test process for arrivals from 9th January 2022 (fully vaccinated travellers):

  • Pre-book a Day 2 arrival ART test
  • Complete the Passenger Locator Form (including your Day 2 test booking reference)
  • Complete Day 2 ART test on or before Day 2 after arrival (arrival day is Day 0)
  • No self-isolation / quarantine is required

Children aged 4 and under are exempt from the Day 2 test. Children aged 17 and under can follow thee arrival process for fully vaccinated travellers, even if they are not.

You can find a full list of Day 2 test providers in England via this government portal, though it will likely take a couple of days for the companies to fully update their lateral flow (ART) test pricing following this news.

Other UK countries

If you are travelling to Scotland or Northern Ireland, there are still separate testing and isolation requirements for international arrivals at the time of writing.

Wales, meanwhile, has already fallen into line with the new English requirement, with the others expected to follow suit.

Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing

While it’s great to see a VTL country coming off the pre-departure testing list, this still leaves 20 of Singapore’s 24 VTL countries imposing such a requirement, with recent additions including Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Here’s a full list of the pre-departure testing requirements when travelling from Singapore to the following countries, in addition to VTL testing on your return:

Testing before travelling to selected VTL countries

VTL country Test type Test timing Exemptions
Australia PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Brunei PCR 48h before departure
or
72h before departure (Singapore RGL)
Cambodia PCR 72h before arrival
Canada PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Denmark PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before arrival
or
ART 48h before arrival
Age 14 or below
or
Danish Residents
Fiji PCR 3 days* before departure Age 11 or below
Finland PCR
or
ART
48h before arrival Age 15 or below
or
Finnish Citizens / PRs
France PCR
or
ART
48h before departure Age 11 or below
India PCR 72h before departure Age 4 or below
Indonesia PCR 72h before departure
Italy PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before arrival
or
ART 24h before arrival
Age 5 or below
Malaysia PCR 2 days before departure Age 2 or below
Maldives PCR 96h before departure Age below 1
Netherlands PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 11 or below
South Korea PCR 48h before departure Age 5 or below
Sri Lanka PCR 72h before departure Age 1 or below
Sweden PCR
or
ART
48h before arrival Age 11 or below
Switzerland PCR
or
ART
PCR 72h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 15 or below
Thailand PCR 72h before departure Age 5 or below
USA PCR
or
ART
1 day before departure Age 1 or below

* Passengers arriving in Fiji from the UK or USA must have a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 1 day of departure of the first flight or series of flights booked on the same itinerary.

VTL flights UK – Singapore

Here’s a list of all the VTL flights from the UK to Singapore, operated by both British Airways and Singapore Airlines, which you’ll need to use on your return journey to benefit from quarantine-free arrival in Singapore.

The list has been recently extended to include confirmed VTL flight schedules through to late October 2022 (click to expand):

10th January 2022 - 16th January 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ317
A380
LHR
10:55
SIN

07:50*
BA11
787-9
     
LHR
18:50
SIN

15:55*

* Next day

17th January 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ317
A380
LHR
10:55
SIN

07:50*
BA11
787-9
     
LHR
18:50
SIN

15:55*
 bgcolor= SQ319
777-300ER
LHR
20:35
SIN

17:30*

* Next day

27th March 2022 - 31st May 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ317
A380
LHR
11:25
SIN

07:30*
 bgcolor= SQ319
777-300ER
LHR
20:50
SIN

16:55*
BA15
787-9
LHR
21:25
SIN

17:45*

* Next day

1st June 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ317
A380
LHR
11:25
SIN

07:30*
 bgcolor= SQ319
777-300ER
LHR
20:50
SIN

16:55*
BA15
787-9
LHR
21:25
SIN

17:45*
 bgcolor= SQ321
A350
LHR
22:05
SIN

18:10*

* Next day

London Singapore
Non-VTL

  • SQ305 services (Daily) are not designated VTL flights.
  • British Airways is not offering any non-VTL flights.

20th January 2022 - 26th March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
MAN
11:00
SIN

07:55*

* Next day

27th March 2022 - 5th June 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
MAN
11:40
SIN

07:40*

* Next day

6th June 2022 - 29th October 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ51
A350-900
MAN
11:40
SIN

07:40*

* Next day

Manchester Singapore
Non-VTL

  • None

British Airways is one of over 20 airlines operating designated VTL flights to Singapore. (Photo: British Airways)

  Full list of all VTL Flights

VTL testing to Singapore remains

As we recently reported, Singapore has extended operation of daily post-arrival COVID-19 testing for VTL travellers from all VTL countries (including the UK).

That means you’ll still 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).

VTL passengers arriving in Singapore will still be subject to a daily testing regime for a week. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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.

The latest regime is in effect for arrivals until at least 30th January 2022.



 


 

Total testing costs

With a removal of the pre-departure test requirement, there are now nine COVID-19 tests on a roundtrip from Singapore to the UK.

Here’s how the approximate total testing costs for the journey now look.

🇬🇧 VTL
Singapore UK
Estimated Testing Costs 

Test Cost
UK Day 2 (ART) ~S$30
UK pre-departure (ART)* ~S$30
Singapore arrival (PCR) S$125
Day 2 S$7
Day 3 S$15
Day 4 S$7
Day 5 S$7
Day 6 S$7
Day 7 S$15
Total S$243

* Prices vary between providers and locations.

You’re now looking at around S$240 per traveller in addition to flight and hotel expenses for a trip like this.



 


 

Summary

A step in the right direction from the English Government, with a scrapping of pre-departure COVID-19 testing for international arrivals, but perhaps more importantly for our readers a removal of the self-isolation requirement while awaiting the results of your Day 2 test (which is really a ‘Day 0-2’) PCR test, from 7th January 2022.

Two days later on 9th January 2022 the next improvement is also for the Day 2 test to revert to the so-called ‘lateral flow’ (ART) method, for near-enough instant results at a much lower cost.

Testing for a VTL trip from Singapore to the UK is being simplified. (Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)

This effectively returns the testing profile for fully vaccinated travellers heading to the UK back to the November 2021 format, before additional restrictions and requirements were imposed.

Let’s hope we can also start to see some testing relaxation at the Singapore side for VTL travellers, as the country moves to living with the (now inevitable) Omicron variant.

(Cover Photo: Brook Gardener / Shutterstock)

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