Purchase a COVID-19 test to find out if you can reduce your self-isolation period after international travel from.
All arrivals from South Africa must self-isolate
If you arrived in England after 9pm on 23 December 2020 and have been in South Africa during the last 10 days you will not be able to shorten your self-isolation period through Test to Release. You will need to self-isolate for 10 full days since you were last in a place not on the travel corridors list.
How the scheme works
The Test to Release for International Travel scheme is for people who need to self-isolate on arrival in England.
Under the scheme you can choose to pay for a private COVID-19 test. If the result is negative, you can stop self-isolating.
The earliest you can take the test is 5 full days after you left a place not on the travel corridor list.
The scheme is voluntary and applies to those self-isolating in England only.
If you do not want to opt into the Test to Release scheme, you will need to self-isolate until 10 full days have passed since were last in a place not on the travel corridors list.
How to take part in the scheme
To take part in the scheme you need to:
You should book your test before you travel to England. This is so you can enter details of the test when you opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form.
If you decide to take part in the scheme after you have arrived in England, you will need to complete another passenger locator form.
You will have to pay the private test provider for your test. You will need to book an individual test for each person opting into Test to Release, including children.
The test provider will either send a test to your address or you can attend a testing site. You may leave your house to post your test or to travel directly to and from the testing site. You should follow safer travel guidance and avoid public transport if possible.
The earliest you can take the test is 5 full days after you were last in a place that is not on the travel corridor list. For most international arrivals this will be on your 5th full day of self-isolation.
You leave a country not on the travel corridor list on Monday morning and arrive in England on Monday afternoon. Tuesday will be your first full day of self-isolation. You can take a test no earlier than your 5th full day of self-isolation - Saturday. You must continue to self-isolate while you await your test result.
You are in a country that is not on the travel corridor list - a ‘non-exempt’ country. You leave the non-exempt country and you spend 2 full days in a country that is on the travel corridor list - an ‘exempt country’. You then travel to England.
The earliest you can take a test is on your 3rd full day of self-isolation in England. This is because you have already spent 2 full days in an ‘exempt country’, making a total of 5 full days.
If you test negative
If the test result is negative you can stop self-isolating as soon as you receive the result.
If you test positive for COVID-19
If the test is positive you need to self-isolate for another 10 days. Count the 10 days starting from the day you took the test, or from when you first had symptoms if that is earlier.
People you live with in the UK, or people you are staying with, should also self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your positive test.
If your test is inconclusive
If the result from your test is inconclusive you must continue to self-isolate. You can choose to take another privately provided test to find out if you can stop self-isolating early.
You may be fined if you do not self-isolate. The fine is £1,000 for the first time, up to £10,000 for further breaches.
NHS Test & Trace tests
You can be fined if you use a negative NHS test result to end your self-isolation period early.
If you are told to self-isolate via an NHS app
Self-isolate immediately if you are told to by the NHS Test and Trace app or the NHS COVID-19 app.
This applies even if you have had a negative test result under the Test to Release scheme and stopped self-isolating.
If you are told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app or the NHS COVID-19 app NHS app before you take a test under the Test to Release scheme, you should:
- cancel your test
- continue self-isolating for 10 days from when you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for coronavirus
If you have coronavirus symptoms
If you have coronavirus symptoms then you should take an NHS Test and Trace test as soon as you can. You should take an NHS Test and Trace test even if you have recently received a negative result for another test.
You cannot use a test taken through NHS Test & Trace to shorten your self-isolation period. You must continue to self-isolate if the result from an NHS Test & Trace test is negative.
Read about self-isolating following a positive test result.
Travel corridors and exempt jobs
The Test to Release scheme is for people who need to self-isolate on arrival in England. You don’t need to self-isolate if:
- you have only been in the UK or somewhere on the travel corridor list in the past 10 days
- your job is listed as being exempt from the requirement to self-isolate
You can also opt in to the Test to Release scheme if you have a qualified exemption and are only allowed to leave self-isolation for some, work-related activities. For example, seasonal agricultural workers.
Why self-isolating is important
Self-isolating will help prevent family, friends and the community from contracting coronavirus, as well as helping to protect the NHS.
Graphic showing examples of self-isolation periods
Graphic showing self-isolation periods as described in this guidance. You can view a larger version.