Do Children Need to Take Covid Tests when Entering the UK?

Much of the world is beginning to emerge from lockdowns and coronavirus restrictions, and many countries and territories are opening their borders to tourists after a year of no entry. The UK has now celebrated its so-called ‘Freedom Day’, but there are still restrictions on who can enter the country and what tests they need to complete. So how does it work now and what are the age limits on children taking tests? We investigate…

Standard Covid Testing for Entry to the UK

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Everyone entering the UK from any other country must take a Covid test before they arrive, as well as one on day 2 of their arrival. These tests must be purchased privately and not obtained through the NHS; you can find all the necessary testing equipment for each of the days in kits like Medicspot’s travel test package.

Country categories in the UK refer to the country or territory that a person has travelled from or through in the 10 days prior to their arrival. Countries are categorised in a traffic light system by the UK government; with green-rated countries considered the safest, amber ‘at risk’, and travel to those on the red list advised against. The list is reviewed and amended every 3 weeks as standard, with the proviso that any urgent outbreaks of Covid-19 in any country listed may switch its position sooner than 21 days as a matter of priority. 

As a standard entry requirement to the country, all travellers to the UK must fill out a passenger locator form so that they are able to be contacted by government or health officials upon arrival if necessary. What’s more, everyone must have completed a coronavirus test with a negative result no sooner than 72 hours before entry. 

Those travelling from or through the green list must complete a PCR test on day 2 of their arrival to the UK. There is no need for them to quarantine unless this tests positive. Those travelling from or through an amber list country must complete a day 2 PCR test and a day 8 PCR test, but a day 5 ‘early release’ additional test can be taken to end quarantine. Amber list travellers are able to quarantine at home, and will be contacted regularly by the track and trace team to ensure this is being adhered to. If amber list travellers are fully vaccinated — that is, double vaccinated or single-vaccinated for the Johnson & Johnson inoculation — they may follow the green list rules. Those travelling through or from a red list country must take day 2 and day 8 tests and quarantine in a government-approved hotel quarantine facility at their own cost.

Age Limits on Covid Testing

Whether or not children must undergo covid testing for entry to the UK depends on their age. Currently, all children aged 10 or under are exempt from taking covid tests prior to or upon arrival into the UK, but they must isolate with their household if their travel departure point is of a categorisation that requires it. If they are travelling from or through an amber list country or territory but with adults that are fully vaccinated, there is no need to quarantine.

There is no upper age limit for covid tests and so all adults must be properly tested as per border requirements. There are some exemptions to this rule for medical purposes and clinical trials.

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Choosing to Test Children for Covid

Of course, if a child is under 10 and their parents, guardians or carers wish to have them tested for coronavirus, this can happen. In the same way that a test kit would be purchased privately for an adult, it can be done for a child. For PCR tests with swabs used, young children can bypass the tonsil insertion and instead have the swab inserted in to both nostrils. There will be space to mark the age of the child on the return kit and so this will make clear to the laboratory where this has happened. The difference in accuracy of the results in double-nostril swabbing compared to tonsil and nostril swabbing is negligible, and not considered sufficient enough to put children at risk.

Choosing to test a child for covid because of international travel should be done privately at the parent or guardian’s cost, and should not be carried out on the NHS. If testing is required for a symptomatic child who has not travelled abroad, a standard PCR test can be booked.

For the most part, there is no need to test children for coronavirus but many people will choose to as we see restrictions ease and infection rates fluctuate. Only you know what is right for you and your family, so stay safe and test when you feel it is the right time to do so.