With international travel now permitted once again, the government has introduced a new scheme in England to reduce the quarantine period for those coming from abroad. Called the Test to Release scheme, visitors returning to England can potentially decrease how long they have to self-isolate. Here we explain everything you need to know about the programme and provide more information about Test to Release kits.
What is Test to Release?
When travellers return to the UK from a country on the amber list, they have up until now been required to self-isolate for 10 days. However, the Test to Release scheme allows travellers to end their quarantine period early if they purchase a private Covid test.
Taken on the fifth day after returning to the UK, travellers can stop self-isolating if they receive a negative test result. This private test must be taken alongside the standard and compulsory tests on days two and five — which also must show a negative result.
Suitable for both adults and children, Test to Release can be used by anyone arriving in England via plane, train or ferry. However, it’s not suitable if you have symptoms, and you would be required to take a Covid test immediately.
Is everyone eligible for Test to Release?
No, unfortunately Test to Release is only available to those who have arrived from a country on the amber list. If you’ve been in a red country or travelled through it, you must quarantine for 10 days and book a travel test package right here.
There’s no need to opt into the Test to Release scheme if you’ve been in a green country. Instead, you only need to take a test on day two. If that test is negative you can stop quarantining. If you’re coming from an amber country and don’t opt into the Test to Release scheme, you must quarantine for 10 days.
Those travelling from a country that is on the travel corridor list, via a country not on the travel corridor list, must self-isolate when they return to England. In short, if your journey — however small — travels through anywhere not on the list, you must still self-isolate. This is the case even if you don’t leave the plane, train or ferry. You are still eligible for Test to Release, however, after you’ve been in England for five days.
Those who have a job listed on the exemption list don’t need to quarantine or complete a private test either.
How do I join the Test to Release scheme?
Before you travel to England, you must book and pay for a private test, and make it known on the passenger locator form that you will be taking part in the programme. Each person requires their own test, including children of all ages.
You are still required to book and complete the two compulsory Covid tests upon entering the UK, however. The Test to Release is taken alongside these.
When do you take the Test to Release?
Everyone entering the UK is required to quarantine for 10 days. On day five, you have the option to take a private Test to Release test. If you test negative, and also had a negative standard test on day two, you can stop quarantining but you still need to take the compulsory test on day eight. If you begin to experience any Covid symptoms, you must start the self-isolation process.
If you test positive, you need to quarantine for another 10 days — starting from when you took the test. Those who live with you are also required to quarantine for 10 days. You don’t need to take another test on day eight. An inconclusive test means that you must continue to quarantine. However, you can take a private test and end your quarantine early if it’s negative.
Where do you take the Test to Release?
The private tests can either be sent to your home address or you are permitted to travel to one of the nationwide testing centres. You should still self-isolate until you receive a negative test result.
It’s advised that you don’t use public transport to get to the Test to Release centre as you may be carrying the virus. However, it is not illegal to travel via public transport to the testing centres.
Is the Test to Release scheme the same as NHS Test and Trace?
No, these schemes are different. Results via the NHS Test and Trace programme cannot be used in the Test to Release scheme. If they are used, you may be fined for ending your quarantine early or providing a false result.
If you are told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app, you must do so immediately — even if you’ve had a negative test under the Test to Release scheme. If you’ve not had your Test to Release yet, you should cancel your test and self-isolate for 10 days.
Will a vaccination pass count as a Test to Release?
Unfortunately, the Test to Release, vaccination passes and NHS Test and Trace apps are completely different schemes and results for one cannot be transferred to another. If you want to end your quarantine period early, you must purchase a private Test to Release and wait for a negative result.
Is Test to Release compulsory?
No, Test to Release is voluntary. However, all travellers returning to England must complete a compulsory test on day two and eight. If you don’t want to take part in Test to Release, you must self-isolate for 10 days. Test to Release might simply shorten this period.
Currently, Test to Release is only available to those who return to England, have been there for five days and live there. It’s not available if you’re travelling to England and live in Scotland, Wales or Ireland.
However, this may change in the future. It’s important to keep up to date with the entry requirements of where you’re travelling to so you can protect yourself and your community from Covid and minimise any time you may have to spend waiting for the all-clear.