This post doesn’t have anything to do with financial retirement planning, but I thought I would describe the current COVID-19 requirements to travel to the UK and to return to the US – as best as I understand them. That’s because this was the all-consuming task for Patti and me this week. We must have spent more than 10 hours to sort this out and implement the steps. We did not find a succinct description of what to do and how to meet the requirements. I’ll be shocked if this went smoothly for other passengers on our flight to the UK.
We had planned a trip in May of 2020; we try to go that time every year. It was the first trip we cancelled in 2020. Patti bought new tickets this March, soon after we’d been vaccinated. Right now, the CDC suggests not traveling to the UK because of their rate of new cases, which is very similar to ours, but we still plan to go.
I display the steps:
== Meet UK requirements before we leave ==
• Get a proper NAAT COVID test in the US within three days of departure. 0 is your departure day. Our departure day is Wednesday. We have to get tested no earlier than Sunday. We booked a test time on Sunday at a CVS MinuteClinic about a mile from us. They overnight all tests to a lab, and we will get results on Monday or Tuesday with a link to results. We’ll have to show the printed report or documentation on our phone of the negative test results before we get on our initial flight from Pittsburgh and, I assume, again on arrival in the UK.
• You need to purchase a UK approved “Day 2” test. We need to complete the test within two days of arrival: 0 is your arrival day. We arrive on Thursday. We need to complete the test by Saturday.
We needed to order this test a couple of days before our flight, since we need evidence – a Locator Reference number provided by the company that supplies the test. That number is stated on our receipt. The number is required for the UK passenger locator form we must fill out within 48 hours of departure (see below).
We used this site to find UK government approved testing companies. From the site, we picked 1) Day 2 test, 2) self swab at home, and 3) location of North East England: that’s the area where we first stay. We get a long list of providers (373!). The test kits we ordered, including next day delivery to the first place we are staying, were about £75 each – roughly $100 each. We ordered the kits six days before arrival. Our provider sent us an email as to exact time of delivery, and the place we are staying confirmed today that they have our kits.
A test kit has instructions and a return envelope for our swab. We mail that envelope in a “Priority” Royal Mail Box that is collected at the end of every day with tests delivered to testing labs the next morning. There are 35,000 in the UK. This site shows the identifying label. This site tells you the location of a nearby priority mailbox. It lists where we are staying has a priority post box or is a priority collection point.
We will get test results emailed to us within 72 hours. The NHS also gets those results. We’re assuming we will be negative, but if not, we’ll follow the instructions that I’m sure we will get in the email. If positive, I assume for now that we would have to quarantine and totally change our internal travel plans.
While new case rates are slightly higher in the UK, I think our risks are no worse than traveling in the US. As of now, 75% of all adults are fully vaccinated in the UK as compared to about 50% in the US.
• Complete a passenger locator form no earlier than 48 hours before we arrive in the UK. We arrive in the UK about 5:30 AM on a Thursday, Pittsburgh time. We must fill out the form after 5:30 AM on Tuesday.
== Meet US requirement before we return ==
We need to present a negative test for COVID before we depart. This is a “supervised” home swab test. We need to carry the correct test kit with us to the UK to use within three days of our return flight from the UK. 0 is the departure day. We leave the UK on a Monday. We need to complete the test no earlier than Friday.
The test is a BinaxNOW Ag Card home test made by Abbott. The supervision is a video-connected observation of us taking the test and then reading the result displayed on the test card. That’s with a company called eMed. We get an App for our iPhones: NAVICA. We’ll use that App when we are ready for the test and video connection to eMed. If we are negative, they’ll give each of us a digital health pass, a QR code similar to an airline boarding pass, on NAVICA. We’ll have to present passes before we board and maybe at passport control when we arrive.
We bought the test kits from eMed. The basic package has more than one kit. We’ll take two each. The test is not as accurate as an NAAT/PCR test and can have false positives. I’m sure we would use the second kit if the first test shows we are positive.
We fly Delta, which links to a form that we use to attest that we have a negative COVID-19 test. We complete that form online and print it or we can complete the form at the airport.
Conclusion: Patti and I are traveling to the UK next week. We had difficulty understanding what we had to do and by when to meet COVID-19 requirements to enter the UK and then to return to the US. This post describes the requirements and how we will complete them.