Earlier this month we reported on rumours that the UK government was set to scrap all COVID-19 arrival testing for fully vaccinated travellers, in line with an overall relaxation of national restrictions following a decline in Omicron cases.
It’s happening a little later than predicted, but the good news for those travelling to the UK, including Singapore residents taking advantage of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) for quarantine-free trips, is that England will scrap its Day 2 test for fully vaccinated passengers next month.
Ahead of the travel testing relaxation, from 27th January the UK government is no longer advising people to work from home, COVID-19 passes will not be required to access large events, and face masks will no longer be legally required anywhere in England.
Farewell Day 2 test
Travellers arriving in England from 4am on Friday 11th February 2022 will no longer need to pre-book a Day 2 test, saving the inconvenience and cost of arranging this swab prior to their flight.
Day 2 testing in the UK has been in place since 17th May 2021.
“We promised we wouldn’t keep these measures in place a day longer than necessary and it is obvious to me now that border testing for vaccinated travellers has outlived its usefulness”Grant Shapps, UK Secretary of State for Transport, 24th January 2022
It’s a little strange to wait 18 days to remove the test requirement, while at the same time basically admitting it is useless already. Politicians!
This expected development follows the removal of a pre-departure test requirement and self-isolation period for UK-bound travellers earlier this month, and means those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon be free to travel to the UK without any testing and associated costs.
Currently the Day 2 test can be a lateral flow (ART) or PCR test, taken between Day 0 (arrival) and the end of Day 2, but must be pre-booked and paid for with a private provider prior to departure.
If you are arriving before 4am on 11th February 2022, this requirement remains in force.
The pre-departure form stays
The only remaining complication for those travelling to the UK will now be the Passenger Locator form, which must be completed by each traveller within 48 hours of arrival.
For example if you are arriving in the UK at 5.55am on 3rd February, the form can be submitted any time from 5.55am UK time (1.55pm Singapore time) on 1st February.
A Passenger Locator form must still be presented at check-in when departing for the UK from overseas, even after the Day 2 test is scrapped.
From 11th February 2022, however, travellers will have an extra day (72 hours in total) to complete it.
The form will be simplified once no Day 2 test booking reference is required, but it will still require you to confirm your vaccination status and, potentially, your intended address(es) for the first 10 days you will spend in the country.
It also allows British travellers and those holding many other passport types, including Singapore Citizens, to use the eGates at the border.
What about children?
Children aged 17 and under by date of birth on the date of arrival in the UK can follow the process for fully vaccinated travellers (i.e. no Day 2 test from 11th February 2022), even if they are not fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated travellers aged 18 or over who are heading to the UK will still be subject to post-arrival testing, though this will be relaxed from 11th February 2022 with the Day 8 test removed.
Crucially, the 10 days of self-isolation currently required will also be axed for these travellers, arguably the biggest change of all.
The new process for these unvaccinated travellers will be:
- Take a pre-departure PCR or ART test within two days of departure.
- Pre-book a Day 2 post-arrival PCR test.
- Complete the Passenger Locator Form within 72 hours of arrival (including Day 2 test booking reference).
- Take an ART (lateral flow) or PCR test by the end of Day 2 after arrival (arrival = Day 0).
- No self-isolation is required, even prior to receiving the Day 2 test result.
What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
As usual, these changes will initially apply for those travelling to England (including on direct flights from Singapore to London and Manchester), however the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland usually bring their own restrictions in line to take effect from the same date.
At the time of writing there have been no changes announced by these smaller countries, though we expect them to follow suit in the coming days. You can view their latest entry requirements at the following links:
Since there is no internal border between England and these nations, it is effectively pointless for them to retain more stringent testing measures for international arrivals; people would just arrive in England then take domestic transport to their final destination in that case.
What if you already booked?
If you’re arriving in the UK after 4am on Friday 11th February 2022 and you already booked your Day 2 test, you should try to seek a refund, though sadly not all companies will provide one, especially if you have arranged for the test kit to be posted to you in the UK and it has already been dispatched.
Terms and conditions vary between the providers, so check the details for your booking to see what’s possible.
Testing when travelling to other VTL countries
While there will soon be no testing for those who are fully vaccinated when travelling to the UK, either before departure or after arrival, several of Singapore’s VTL countries still impose pre-departure tests.
Here’s the latest updated list of requirements (click to expand):
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 back in Singapore.
The list has been recently extended to include confirmed VTL flight schedules through to late October 2022 (click to expand):
VTL testing to Singapore has been eased
As we recently reported, Singapore has relaxed its daily post-arrival COVID-19 testing for VTL travellers from all VTL countries (including the UK), with self-swab ART tests on Day 2 to Day 7, which are only required if you will be leaving your place of accommodation that day.
That means a maximum of six post-arrival ART swabs, in addition to the on-arrival PCR test at Changi Airport, plus the pre-departure ART or PCR test to be taken in the VTL country within two days of your flight to Singapore.
Here’s how the overall testing regime and approximate costs for a Singapore – UK – Singapore VTL trip now look, from 11th February 2022 onwards.
|UK pre-departure (clinic ART)*||~S$30|
|Singapore arrival (PCR)||S$125|
|Day 2 (self ART)^||~S$7|
|Day 3 (self ART)^||~S$7|
|Day 4 (self ART)^||~S$7|
|Day 5 (self ART)^||~S$7|
|Day 6 (self ART)^||~S$7|
|Day 7 (self ART)^||~S$7|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
^ Only required if leaving your place of accommodation that day. Not required if leaving Singapore that day.
You’re now looking at around S$200 in testing costs per traveller in addition to flight and hotel expenses for a trip like this, assuming you will go out each day after arriving in Singapore, and therefore require six separate self-swab ART tests.
Only seven weeks ago, fully vaccinated travellers heading to the UK faced an ART or PCR pre-departure test, then self-isolation on arrival until their negative Day 2 test (PCR at the time) was received, often involving at least 24 hours inside a hotel room or a private residence.
From 11th February the UK will now be one of only a handful of Singapore’s VTL countries requiring no testing or isolation whatsoever, quite a stark change in a relatively short time period as the country’s Omicron wave subsides.
The travel industry will certainly be rejoicing at the removal of this rather unique testing arrangement, which made little sense during the Omicron wave and was at odds with other European countries.
The UK is pushing ‘full speed ahead’ with treating COVID-19 as an endemic virus, with a raft of other restrictions being lifted this month, including compulsory mask-wearing.
For many of our readers this is fantastic news, making a quarantine-free trip from Singapore to the UK as hassle-free as it can be, with no more pre-departure or post-arrival testing on the way there and only Singapore’s recently eased measures to contend with on the way back.
(Cover Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)