The Definitive Guide to Travelling During the Pandemic

Written by HMI

June 23, 2021

This article is dedicated to answering all the questions you have in regards to traveling abroad during the pandemic. With regulations constantly changing, passengers are struggling to stay informed with the most up-to-date information.

We are here to help, bringing together expert opinions and facts straight from authorised international and government sources.

Can I travel ?

The question we get asked most often, is can I travel?

The first thing in your itinerary would be to find out whether you are allowed to travel or not.

The best place to find up-to-date travel advice is through this link which will take you directly to the government website, with a constantly updated travel guidance list.

It is important to note that there will be risks accompanied by choosing to travel during the pandemic and you should always follow government guidance when offered. If you do intend to travel then you must familiarise yourself with the regulations and law about travelling to that country.

Key Information to Note When Travelling

The information that you will need will differ depending on what part of the world you are travelling to.

Every country has a different set of requirements. The majority of countries requirre an RT-PCR test 72 Hours prior to travel, meanwhile other countries require may require a test within 48 hours, or even

We recommend you keep note of the best ways to contact the local British Embassy or consulate to make sure you are fully informed if circumstances abroad change drastically. It is essential that you check the validity of your passport because some countries including all EU countries would require your passport to be valid for 6 months after the date you travel. It is optional to bring an additional form of identification preferably with a photograph.

International Travel

The UK Government has put in place a traffic light system to monitor potential countries for travel to and from the UK. The traffic light system consists of green, amber and red list of countries, with each colour signifying different rules around testing and quarantining.

The lists are updated often, with the next update set to take place on the 21st of June.

Therefore, a green list could become an amber list country during your trip. If this does happen or you travel to one of these countries or territories, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. You should do this regardless if you are returning to a place you have visited before. 

All visitors who are travelling to England are subjected to the coronavirus restrictions rules. What you must do when you arrive in England from abroad depends on where you have been in the last 10 days prior to your arrival to the country. It is essential that people planning to travel to England follow the guidance on entering the UK. There is a possibility that you may need to show paperwork such as your passport or visa. During the pandemic, you may also need to have a negative coronavirus(COVID-19)  test result or demonstrate your COVID-19 vaccination status at the point of entry.

The Different Types of COVID-19 Testing

There are two different strands of testing.  One is to find out if a person currently has the disease, and the other determines if they have had it and have built up antibodies. PCR testing and antigen testing are often confused as the same kinds of test. This is a misconception as there are both different methods of testing, but both of them do ascertain whether a person has COVID-19 at the time. Currently, you will need to have either a PCR test or a rapid antigen test before you are allowed to travel. The test which you must take is dependent on the country which you are travelling to and other information such as whether children under a specific age needs to have the test is then dependent on the airline you take.  

PCR Test

A Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is also known as a Molecular test or RNA test is a diagnostic test considered to be the most sensitive for detecting an active infection, and the results are highly accurate. For PCR tests, a swab is used to collect an RNA sample (the nucleic acid that converts DNA into proteins) from the patient’s tonsils and inside their nose. During Covid-19 PCR testing, substances known as reverse transcriptase or DNA polymerase are added to a nasopharyngeal sample in a lab. These substances work to make numerous copies of any viral RNA that may be present. PCR tests are used to directly screen for the presence of viral RNA, which will be detectable in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease are present. This means the tests can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on in their illness. It is important that you do not take a PCR test if you are experiencing any symptoms as it is not a symptomatic test. The PCR test is often the test you would have to take in order for you to travel out of the country. It is best for you to double-check with the country you are going to whether they require a PCR test or a lateral flow test as they are both different. If you wish to find more information on what test you might need you can head over to our fit to fly covid test website. The website contains a fully extensive list of countries that Harley Medic international created on all the different requirements for traveling during the pandemic. The PCR test that Harley Medic International comes with an all-inclusive Fit to Fly certificate.

Fit to Fly Certificate

A Fit to Fly certificate is normally a letter of approval or document from an accredited health practice. This can be obtained from approved private organizations such as Harley Medic International. There are some countries that would require the accreditation to be done in a specific way, these countries would include China, Hong Kong, and Japan. Henceforth, this stresses the importance of being aware of what the country you are travelling to would require. A Fit to Fly certificate would generally include your name, date of birth, passport number, confirmation of a negative result, the signature of a qualified practitioner to list a few. This certificate would often state the time when you take the appointment where the turn around time will vary from each country whether it being a 48 hour or 72 hour prior to arrival.

Rapid antigen Test

Antigen tests, also known as rapid antigen or lateral flow tests, are similar to PCR tests but are less accurate. They are designed to pick up active Covid-19 infection rather than the antibodies to the disease. With a rapid antigen test, a nasopharyngeal sample is placed on a small absorbent pad, which is then drawn along the pad via a capillary line to a strip coated in antibodies, which bind to SARS-Cov-2 proteins. If these proteins are present, this will show as a colored line on the test, indicating infection. You can take antigen tests with you on your travels as they do not require it to be sent to a laboratory. The results would be provided within 15 to 30 minutes. These are similar to a pregnancy test. The downside to this test is though it is fast it is not as accurate compared to a PCR test.

Antibody test

Antibody also known as a Serology tests are unable to diagnose active infection, but they can help to tell if a person has immunity to Covid-19. Unlike PCR tests, which commonly use swabs to detect Covid-19, blood samples are usually used for antibody tests. This is because there will be a very small amount of Covid-19 circulating in the blood compared to the respiratory tract, but a significant and measurable antibody present in the blood following infection. Antibody tests are being used to evaluate the immune responses in people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

LAMP testing

Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) has a similar process to PCR testing. The difference would be that LAMP testing produces more viral RNA copies at a constant temperature instead of heating and cooling so that the results would be quicker. Unlike PCR, LAMP tests do not require sequential changes of temperature and as such, it is a useful way to get results quicker. However, LAMP testing is currently not recognized for fit to travel certification.

What happens when I travel back home ?

Now that you have safely reached your destination and have enjoyed your trip, it is time for you to head back home. It is mandatory that you have completed a passenger locator form 48 hours prior to your arrival in England. The requirements that you will have to follow is depended on where you have been 10 days prior to your arrival back in England. This is based on whether the country or territory is on the red, amber, or green list for entering England. This link would redirect you to the government website highlighting what you must do. The test which you will have to take would be the day 2 and day 8 test. In most cases, you would require to have a day 2 test and day 8 test booked before you arrive in the country. These tests can be provided by private healthcare providers.

Test to release test

The test to release is a scheme that private healthcare providers provide. This test allows you to end quarantine early and is often taken on day 5 which is why it is also known as the day 5 test. There is a misconception that there is no need to take a day 8 test if a test to release is taken. Though you may leave quarantine earlier because of this scheme, it is still compulsory for you to take the day 8 test. Hence it means if you wish to take a test to release, you would have completed 3 tests in total one on day 2, day 5, and day 8. If you receive a positive in either one of these tests you would have to self-isolate for 10 days starting from the day you receive the result that would be day 0. Bear in mind that the Test to Release is not applicable if you have been in or through the countries or territories on the red list within the 10 days prior to your arrival in England.

Knowing when to quarantine

You will have to self-isolate if you are tested positive or if you are in close contact with someone who is tested positive.

Examples of close contact include:

● face-to-face contact under 1 metre for any length of time – including talking to them or being coughed on 

● being within 1 metre of each other for 1 minute or longer 

● being within 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes in total in 1 day

You will tend have to self-isolate for 10 days straight. It is advice for you to get in touch with NHS contact to inform them that you have tested positive so that the necessary measures can be executed.

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