The UK Government launched its 'Test to Release Scheme' in December 2020, in a bid to cut the quarantine period for overseas arrivals in England.
Visitors from countries not on the UK's red list, are now able to significantly reduce their quarantine period. Travellers are eligible for a private Covid test just 5 days after they enter England and can end self-isolation once a negative result is returned.
The scheme is voluntary and so visitors can choose to opt to quarantine for 10 days without a private test instead. The scheme has been welcomed by UK boarding schools and overseas parents and students set to return to the UK.
Arrivals from red countries must also book and pay for a travel test package, which will include COVID-19 tests to be taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of their quarantine. Arrivals from the rest of the world must also book their travel test package but will only be required to complete a test on day 2 after their arrival. Testing providers and costings are detailed on the UKGov website here. Students who opt to use The Test To Release Scheme, will still be required to undertake their day 2 test.
If you have been in or through any country on the UK's red list in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK. If they are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK i.e studying at a UK Boarding School, then you will be able to enter but please do check with your airline prior to departure. Pupils with the right to reside in the UK who are returning to the UK from a “red list” country are able to quarantine at their UK Boarding School and must be ready to present; a copy of a letter from The Department for Education to the their school confirming that they are covered by an exception. They must also carry a letter from their school addressed to them which confirms that the school is able to meet requirements set out in the above DfE letter.
Since December, The Bright World Team has been guiding our students who opt in to the Scheme, helping them to book a test with one of the recognised provider on the UK Government website.
Tests can be delivered to the address where you are isolating and are posted back to the laboratory or students can attend a clinic for their test.
We estimate that test results will be returned between day 6 - 8 of the quarantine period. These are sent by email. If the test result is negative, then the student can end their quarantine and return to school. If the test is positive, then they need to remain in quarantine for a further 10 days.
If it is inconclusive or the test failed parents can arrange to take another test privately and repeat the process.
We have studied the different options available in terms of how and where to take the test and feel that for our students, a postal test is the easiest, safest and most straight forward. The postal tests are swab saliva tests that involve saliva only and are not intrusive or unpleasant. We feel that a swab test and the postal route is the most straightforward. We do not know how efficient the testing companies on the list are and if tests will arrive on time and results will be fast.
You can also choose a clinic and we can arrange travel to and from to take a test. Results could also be slow at coming back from these.
Your quarantine starts on the day AFTER you arrive in the UK. For example, if you arrive on a Monday afternoon, your first day of quarantine is the Tuesday. You can then take your test on the Saturday later on that week.
Each provider is different and you pay when you book online. It seems that the average for a postal test is around £120.
Once you have taken the test on Day 5, your host family will assist you and take your pre-paid parcel to post it as quickly as possible.
According to the websites of the testing companies, test results will be emailed to you between 24 and 48 hours after the test is received by them. If the results are back earlier and are negative then students are free to leave early and return to school.
If your test results show that you are Covid-19 positive then you will need to isolate for a further 10 days at the host family. Tests can also fail if insufficient saliva is sent or can be inconclusive. In these cases, you can repeat the process and order a second test.
A failed or inconclusive test is going to delay your early release from quarantine. Also, as there is no precedent to this situation and the process is new to all the companies on the government list, we cannot recommend any company. There is simply no experience to learn from yet.
It may be that the company you choose will not be efficient or will be overloaded with demand for tests and will not be able to fulfil the turnaround times that they promise.
If we do learn that some companies are more efficient than others or the postal system that we currently feel is the best one is not actually as easy as an in-clinic test, we will adapt, let our customers know and change our guidance accordingly as we learn.