New ‘Test to Release’ programme reduces quarantine for UK-bound travellers

From 15 December, the Test to Release scheme enables a reduced quarantine time (from 10 to 5 days) to travellers arriving into England. However, the programme does require some pre-trip activity. Here’s what you need to know about the new Test to Release programme.


Travellers entering England from a high-risk country are currently faced with a 10-day quarantine on arrival.
The Test to Release programme enables travellers to shorten this quarantine period to 5 days. By providing a negative test result on the 5th day of isolation, a traveller no longer has to self-isolate. Hence, shortening their quarantine time to 5-7 days rather than 10.


  1. Book your test before your trip
    To participate in the programme, travellers need to order their test before their trip. The test should be booked for the 5th day after their arrival in the UK. Only government approved provider tests will be accepted.
  2. Complete a Passenger Locator Form
    Mandatory for all UK arrivals, the Passenger Locator Form is an online form which the traveller needs to submit 48 hours before their arrival in the UK. If using the Test and Release programme, travellers also need to include details of the test provider for their 5-day PCR test to ‘enrol’ onto the programme.
    Additionally, a QR code is created for presentation to customs, on arrival into the UK.
  3. Quarantine & self-isolate on arrival
    Upon entering the UK, travellers need to head directly to their designated accommodation to self-isolate immediately. Also, fines are in place for those who do not self-isolate; from £1,000 to £10,000 for each repeat offence.
  4. PCR test on day 5
    Travellers perform the pre-booked PCR test on the 5th day of self-isolation. Test kits can be sent to homes, travellers can visit a test provider facility or a provider can come to the travellers’ home. Any travel outside of the self-isolation accommodation must be direct to the test provider and taking precautions such as wearing a mask.
  5. Await test results
    Travellers are not able to leave self-isolation until they have received their test results. Also, result timelines can vary from the same day, to 24 or 48 hours.
  6. Negative test results ends self-isolation
    Upon receiving a negative test result, travellers are able to leave their self-isolation / quarantine.



When did quarantine change from 14 to 10 days?
On 14 December 2020, quarantine was shortened from 14 to 10 days for anyone arriving into the UK from a non-corridor country.

Which countries are in travel corridors?
The list of travel corridor countries is updated weekly by the Department for Transport. Importantly, anyone travelling to England from a travel corridor country, doesn’t need to participate in the Test to Release programme or self-isolate.


Can tourists and citizens use the Test to Release Programme?
Yes. Indeed, all arrivals into England, citizens and tourists, can participate in the programme.

Is the programme compulsory?
No. The programme is 100% voluntary. And so, anyone arriving in England from a non-corridor country (who doesn’t want to use the programme) will adhere to the standard 10-day quarantine.

What does the Test to Release programme cost?
The cost of a private PCR test on day 5 of isolation is the only associated expense. At present, the price of the test can range from £89 to £160.


Can I use any private test provider?
No. Test results will only be accepted by approved Government providers. Tests will need to be pre-booked and paid for before travelling, as details will need to be included in the Passenger Locator Form.

Do the NHS offer a free test?
No. The free tests administered by the NHS are not eligible for this programme.


What if the test results are positive?
Following a positive test result, a traveller is unable to leave self-isolation early (after 5 days) and needs to quarantine for an additional 10 days from the date of receiving the positive result.

Can test results come back inconclusive?
Yes. In this case, travellers will need to complete the full 10 days of self-isolation or re-take the test.


Can I decide to participate in the programme after arrival into England?
Yes. Travellers can enrol/participate in Test to Release after arrival, so long as they complete a NEW passenger locator form.