No guidance on what Covid tests are acceptable for UK entry with 24 hours to go

Exclusive: Check in for the first flight to the UK to be affected starts at 12.45pm GMT on Thursday

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 13 January 2021 10:58 GMT
Front line: Arrivals at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2
Front line: Arrivals at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2

Barely 24 hours before the first passengers required to “test before travel” to the UK are due to check in, there is still no clarity about what tests will be acceptable.

The law takes effect for arrivals from 4am on Friday morning – but the first travellers to be affected will depart on Thursday.

Travellers will not be allowed on board flights, ferries or trains unless they present a negative coronavirus test certificate from an authorised centre before they are allowed to travel.

But five days after the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced the new rules, the government has still not given details about acceptable tests.

The Independent has calculated that the first passengers to be affected by the new law are booked to travel on Singapore Airlines flight 322 to London Heathrow airport on Thursday 14 January. 

They are due to touch down under two hours after the test-before-travel procedure begins.

The flight itself takes over 14 hours, departing from Singapore on Thursday – at 3.45pm, UK time. Check in begins three hours earlier.

The government in Singapore provides a list of its own approved providers for both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antigen rapid tests. But it is not yet known which will be acceptable to the UK.

Many other travellers have contacted The Independent to express concern about the lack of information as the deadline approaches.

Gabi Greenham is currently in Bonn where she has been supporting her elderly father, but is intending to return to the UK at the weekend. She said: “We are now booked to drive back via Eurotunnel on Sunday and waiting with bated breath details of the test requirements for re-entry to the UK.

“I have booked antigen tests with a local GP for Friday, who will e-mail me the results with a photo of the actual test, but I obviously don’t know if that is acceptable.”

On Monday the transport minister, Robert Courts, said: “We will provide clear guidance and advice to passengers regarding testing standards and capacity.

“Guidance will be available to passengers and carriers on what to look for to assure tests and the results provided meet the standards required.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) is expected to provide an update during the course of Wednesday.

Tests on arrival are not an acceptable substitute, the government says.

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