Covid: Day 2 PCR test for unvaccinated travellers

The new travel rules have streamlined foreign travel for everyone who is fully vaccinated, but unvaccinated travellers still need the Day 2 PCR test.

The UK government’s new foreign travel rules aim to make half term holidays easier for fully vaccinated folks. Scrapping all testing requirements and simplifying the online passenger locator form for fully vaccinated passengers are gigantic steps in the right direction.

Making overseas holidays more accessible is also meant to boost the recovery of the foreign travel industry. Air travel had almost come to a standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. The travel industry was among the businesses that suffered some of the worst losses.

While the new system accommodates cheaper and easier travel for fully vaccinated individuals, what of travellers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated?

Assorted Travel Items of Unvaccinated Travellers

Rules for unvaccinated travellers

According to the UK government, people who do not qualify as fully vaccinated must continue to take COVID-19 tests when coming to England. Nonetheless, the testing rules for unvaccinated travellers have also been made simpler.

Things to do before travelling to England:

  • You must take a COVID-19 test 2 days before departing for the UK. This can be a PCR test or antigen test (as long as it meets the minimum standards of specificity and sensitivity set by the UK government).
  • Book your Day 2 PCR test before your trip back to England.
  • Fill in your passenger locator form 48 hours before your departure for the UK. You will receive a unique reference number when you book your Day 2 PCR test; this number must be included in the form.


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Things you must do on arriving in England:

  • Take the prebooked Day 2 PCR test on or before the second of your arrival.
  • You do not have to enter quarantine unless your Day 2 test result comes back positive or unclear.

The day you arrive in England is considered Day 0, the next day is Day 1, and so on.

Are there any exemptions?

You may be excused from some or all testing requirements in a few specific cases:

Negative result from a Day 2 PCR test

The ideal outcome is receiving a negative result for the Day 2 PCR test. In such instances, you will not be required to do anything.

Positive result from a Day 2 PCR test

If you receive a positive result on your Day 2 PCR test, you must start your self-isolation period starting from the day after you had taken the test. Basically, the day you took the test will be considered Day 0.

Typically, the self-isolation period is meant to last a full 10 days. Regardless, unvaccinated travellers can end their quarantine on day 6. In order for this to happen, they must take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on the fifth and sixth days of their quarantine and receive negative results both times.

More information on the NHS website.

Unclear result from a Day 2 PCR test

In the event that you receive an unclear result, you will be required to self-isolate for 10 days. You can take an additional PCR test at your own discretion. Receiving a negative result in this test will effectively allow you to stop self-isolating.

What if you do not take a Day 2 PCR test?

If unvaccinated travellers do not take the Day 2 PCR test, they are legally required to stay in quarantine for a full 14 days from the day after the arrival date.

Suitcases with an Airplane Lifting Off in the Background

The self-isolation rules following a positive/unclear Day 2 PCR test

In addition to receiving a positive or an unclear Day 2 test result, the following rules are also applicable if you do not take the test.

You must observe your post-arrival quarantine period at the address you specified on the online passenger locator form.

While you are self-isolating, you are not to leave the premises or have visitors over. People may only visit you to provide emergency, medical, or veterinary assistance, and certain critical public services. The exception for visitors also includes care providers.

You will absolutely not be allowed to leave your self-isolation location during your quarantine period. There are, however, certain circumstances that will allow you to leave, including:

  • If you are in danger of harm, such as domestic abuse
  • When you are unable to arrange basic amenities like food and medicines to be delivered
  • If you need to travel to a COVID-19 test centre
  • If you need to gain access to critical public services

If people are living with you while you are self-isolating, they will not be required to enter quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and/or do not start exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

If you self-isolate at a hotel or guest house, you must not visit shared areas like restaurants, bars, and health and sports facilities. You must also be mindful to stay at least 2 metres away from everyone else at all times.

Do you qualify as fully vaccinated?

According to the government’s website, when travelling to England, you will count as fully vaccinated if you received your final dose no less than 14 days before your arrival. The day you were given the final dose of the vaccine will not count toward the 14 days.

When you arrive in the UK, you must have a document of proof for your vaccination, issued by one of the following:

Vaccination programme of the UK

United Nations staff and volunteer’s vaccination programme

Overseas vaccination programmes that are approved for travel in the UK

How can I receive proof of vaccination from within the UK?

Book your in-clinic Day 2 PCR test Purchase your Day 2 PCR test kit