Since the end of the UK government’s ‘amber plus’ list, fully vaccinated arrivals from Spain no longer need to quarantine, provided they meet the UK government’s definition of vaccinated (more on that below).
And from October 4th, fully vaccinated travellers will not need a pre-departure Covid test.
They will, however, continue to face the infuriating and expensive world of ‘Day 2 testing’.
The UK government says that in the future, Day 2 tests can be the cheaper antigen tests rather than PCR tests, but there is no start date for that policy.
What it means
All passengers, including children, have to take a test on or before ‘Day Two’ after their arrival in England, in addition to the pre-departure test, which you take in Spain if you are unvaccinated.
But – crucially – this Day Two test must be booked before you leave Spain.
The passenger locator form, required for all arrivals into England, cannot be completed without a reference number from a test, booked through one of the UK government’s approved list of suppliers.
For fully vaccinated travellers, the Day Two test marks the end of their Covid travel requirements, assuming it comes back negative.
Unvaccinated travellers from Spain, however, must quarantine for 10 full days and take another test on or before Day Eight of their stay.
It is important to note that for test and quarantine purposes, the day of arrival is counted as Day Zero. The following day is Day One, the day after that Day Two, and so on.
Proof of purchase of the second test must be included on the passenger locator form, which everyone over age 18 must complete and submit within the 48 hours before they travel. Anyone who fails to take this Day Two test faces a fine of up to £2,000.
How to book a test
Covid tests in the UK may be carried out at home, or by going to a clinic. Prices vary based on how many tests you require and how quickly you need the results – and many clinics offer a range of packages.
According to the government website, you’ll have a wait of 24 to 36 hours to get your test result.
However social media and the British media are awash with stories of people waiting considerably longer than that, never receiving their results or never receiving the tests in the first place.
The cost of individual PCR tests varies between £50 and £250 – though many providers offer a range of packages at different prices based on the number of tests required, where you are coming from and how quickly the results are needed, according to the Covid Testing Network website.
You’ll find that companies offer packages depending on the status of the country you are travelling from, in other words green or amber. Even though the tests are the same. Some companies confusingly list products only for “UK vaccinated”.
Some we found appear to have minimum spends so even if you find a cheap test you can’t buy it, while others seem cheap, but once you get through the final ordering stage extra charges bump up the total.
What’s a real pain is that you also have to book individually for each passenger who requires a test – so if you’re travelling as a family of four you will have to go through the booking process four times.
Confusing official list
The Westminster government lists test providers in England and Northern Ireland here.
But it is long and bewildering, and many firms listed are new and relatively unknown reflecting the rapidly shifting Covid-19 market. Unhelpfully, there’s little indication of where clinics are located, even after a search is regionalised: Yorkshire and the Humber, for example, covers quite a large area.
The government is quick to insist it does not endorse one test provider over another – but it does say that it ‘closely monitors’ performance. All private providers of Covid tests are required to meet certain standards. If they fall short they can be removed from official lists.
Better to look elsewhere
Travel firms and airlines, eager for your business, are increasingly offering discounted tests to customers who use their services, and may include links to certain suppliers on their website. They are worth a look as this may help you find a cheaper test.
It may also be worth checking the Covid Testing Network’s price comparison site, which shows provider prices for at-home and in-clinic tests within a radius of your location in England. Helpfully, it also includes a customer satisfaction score, as well as price, allowing users to make a reasonably informed decision.
So what if you’re staying in the UK for less than two days? You still need the Day 2 test, because the passenger locator form cannot be completed without the booking reference, and you cannot enter England without the form.
So you must pay for a test even if you will no longer be in England when the time comes to use it.
Also be aware that the UK government’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is not the same as the Spanish government’s.
You need to have been vaccinated with a UK approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson – and be at least 14 days from your final dose.
After much confusion, the UK has finally agreed to recognise as vaccinated people who had a ‘mixed dose’ – ie one AstraZeneca and one Pfizer.
But while in Spain, people who previously had Covid are counted as fully vaccinated after a single dose of the vaccine, this is not the case in the UK.