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Get up to speed with the new Covid-19 Testing Rules for International Arrivals into the UK

In the rapidly evolving world of the covid-19 pandemic, the UK government has introduced new stricter measures for international arrivals into the UK which come into effect from today, Monday 15th February 2021. These initial stipulations are likely to evolve over the coming weeks and months but as things stand this is the latest guidance for anyone arriving into the UK from Monday 15th February 2021.

New rules affect all individuals arriving into the UK regardless of nationality or their country of departure.

As things stand there are two categories of countries for people travelling to the UK; a red (higher risk) list and an amber list.

The Red List

The red list is for high risk countries where new covid case numbers remain high and furthermore where novel variants have been identified, or their neighbouring countries.

Anyone arriving from a red list country from 15th February 2021 onwards will now have to do a mandatory quarantine for 10 days in a UK government approved facility, at their own cost. In this facility there will be no Test to Release from quarantine at day 5, meaning a full 10 day quarantine will be mandatory. All of these individuals will be required to do a covid test on day 2 and day 8 following their arrival. Day 0 is classed as the date of arrival in the UK. Two negative tests are needed to be released from the quarantine facility after 10 days only. These tests must be conducted at the traveler's own cost and should be included in the quarantine facility package price. The list of red countries can be found on the UK government website here.

The Amber List

All other foreign countries will be on an amber list. Returning from an amber list country means that individuals will still be required to do a 10 day quarantine at their chosen location/residence. Mandatory covid tests will also now apply for day 2 and day 8 following arrival date in the UK (day 0), at the individual's own cost. Those who opt in for the Test to Release Scheme can still pay for another test at day 5 to reduce their quarantine length if their test result is negative. Please note even if an individual is released from quarantine after a day 5 negative Test to Release they still need to do the mandatory day 8 test as per this new guidance.

Tests at day 2 and day 8 following arrival, until 1st March 2021, will be conducted by the NHS. Following this private providers such as One5 Health can start offering these services. This slight delay is so that minimal standards of covid testing can be declared by private providers prior to government approval to private providers. We will update our website accordingly.

If anyone tests positive on day 2, day 5 (optional Test to Release) or on day 8 then gene sequencing test must also be conducted to identify the exact strain of Covid-19 on the positive sample. Individuals at this point will likely need to start a 10 day self-isolation again from the date of the positive test. This gene sequencing allows Public Health England to be able to gain useful insights into the spread of covid cases emerging from travel from foreign countries and more importantly the emergence of new variants from other parts of the world, into the UK.

At One5 Health we are working towards offering a covid testing package for two covid-19 tests on day 2 and day 8 with an optional add on for Test to Release. These tests can either be done in one of our central London clinics or by an at-home test with courier delivery. Lateral flow tests/rapid antigen tests are not approved for the purpose of returning international travellers nor for Test to Release Scheme. Hence we will only be offering this service on our RT-PCR covid tests. As before we only offer Covid tests in clinic for people who do not have any symptoms of covid-19 and have not been in close contact with a positive case in the last 10 days.

One5 Health is an UK Government and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) approved private provider of Covid-19 tests in the UK.

For all of our covid testing options please see the Covid-19 Testing Page of our website. Testing options include Fit to Fly Covid Tests and Certificates, Test to Release Scheme, Covid Antibody Tests and Rapid Antigen Tests.


This post is written by Dr Gaurav Sabharwal, Founder & CEO of One5 Health.

The information contained in this post is accurate as of Monday 15th February 2021 but is subject to change as per new guidance over the coming days, weeks or months.

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