How to get a PCR test for travel – how much does it cost?

Grant Shapps addresses cost of PCR tests for travellers

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Travel was confirmed this afternoon after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps took to a Downing Street press conference to address the country. Only 12 countries and territories have qualified for the Government’s ‘green’ list, meaning no quarantine restrictions are in place for those that visit. Many were disappointed to find British holiday hotspots like Spain, Greece and Croatia didn’t make the safe list, instead being designated to amber, meaning travellers must quarantine at home back in England. Mr Shapps called this a “first step” and said it was “necessary but cautious”.

The Transport secretary said: “We must make absolutely sure that countries we reconnect with are safe, that their infection rates are low and their vaccination rates are high, nobody wants to go back into lockdown – not ever.”

Mr Shapps warned people not to travel to amber or red listed countries unless absolutely essential, “given that the virus is still spreading in many parts of the world”.

Reviews of the green list are expected to take place every three weeks, whereby countries will have a chance to make it onto the safe list.

He added: “The signs overseas are now more promising as a result of their vaccination programmes beginning to crank up, we have to turn the key slowly.”

Those coming back from amber countries must self-isolate “at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days”, according to the latest Government guidance.

Travellers will have to take two Covid tests as well – on or before day two and on or after day eight of their self isolation.

The guidance says people isolating may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the ‘Test to Release’ scheme.

While this comes as good news to Brits, not every country will let UK nationals in, and some that do will likely require a negative PCR Covid test.

How to get a PCR test for travel

A PCR Covid test involves taking a swab sample from the inside of your nose and back of throat using a long cotton bud.

This can be done by yourself if you’re aged 12 and over, or you can opt for someone to help you instead.

Unlike lateral flow tests that can give a result within 30 minutes, results from a PCR test come back in five working days via text message or phone call.

These tests are considered more accurate as they’re better at detecting tiny amounts of the virus, especially during the beginnings of infection.

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The Government has advised people not to use the NHS testing service to book a PCR test, but instead to sort one out privately.

Test packages for holidays need to be booked well in advance so as to give the provider enough time to arrange delivery and return.

When these arrive, the first test will need to be taken on or before day two of your self isolation, and the second on or after day eight.

A list of PCR test providers has been provided by the Government on its website, with tests costing anywhere between £105 to in excess of £500.

The cheapest test on the list is currently provided by Nationwide partnered with Testing For All at £105.

High street pharmacies Boots and Superdrug both offer PCR tests as well, priced at £99 and £120, respectively.

The test results will usually come back within about 48 hours, and if the test is inconclusive you’ll be granted a refund or the option to repeat it.

Tests at Boots also come with a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate, which will come in very handy when travelling.

Alternatively, some airlines and companies offer PCR tests, with some priced at just £60 – but check to make sure by calling ahead.

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