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US and UK require pre-departure Covid-19 test for all international arrivals

Caitlin Ashworth



Stock photo by Isaac Struna for UnSplash

Heading back to the United States or United Kingdom? You’ll need to get a Covid-19 test first. Both countries are now requiring passengers arriving to the US or UK get tested for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before the flight departs. Passengers will also need to show proof of a negative result before bordering.

The new travel regulations go into effort on Friday in the UK and on January 26 in the US.

United Kingdom

Along with proof of a negative Covid-19 result, passengers will need to complete a passenger locator form online before arriving in the UK. Passengers arriving from countries that are not on the country’s travel corridor list must self-isolate for 10 days.

People arriving in the UK by boat, airplane or train will have to take a Covid-19 test no more than 3 days before departure. Border Force officers will do spot checks and passengers who don’t comply with the new regulations will be fined £500.

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the measure is to help protect against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.

“We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.”

United States

The Center for Disease Control issued an order yesterday requiring all air passengers arriving in the US from abroad to be tested for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before departure. Passengers need to provide proof of a negative result before bordering the flight. The order goes into effect on January 26.

For those who recently recovered from Covid-19, the CDC doesn’t recommend getting tested again, as long as the traveller doesn’t have coronavirus symptoms. The traveller can provide “documentation of recovery,” issued by a public health official or healthcare provider, when bordering the flight to the US.

The CDC recommends that travellers get tested again around 3 to 5 days after travel and to stay at home to self-isolate for at least a week.


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  1. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t think I’m the only one who is gobsmacked that this wasn’t already the case. Testing people before they go into a confined environment for several hours and potentially infect everyone else on the plane would seem to be the obvious thing to do. Then I found out that my own country hadn’t regulated that all those arriving from overseas must have had a negative PCR test prior to departure. Which is why we now have some cases of the UK strain and south african strain, both of which are significantly more transmissible.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 12:56 pm

      Jason, you’re far from the only one “gobsmacked”, although I’ve been gobsmacked by the incompetence and stupidity shown by both the UK and the USA for quite some time.

      While a test 72 hours before has its obvious limitations, it’s unbelievable that any country whose leaders and scientific advisers know which day of the week it is wouldn’t have required the tests several months and several hundred thousand deaths ago.

  2. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    Agreed John! But I am also appalled at the absolute double standards of governments around the world which have revealed themselves since this pandemic began in earnest. I can’t be with the woman I love…I can’t even leave my country, but somehow we can easily “Parachute in” football teams, cricket teams and any number of sports people and their families and hangers on. Citizens of my country are stranded overseas and cannot return until my country increases the number of places it can quarantine people. I will come back to Thailand…one day.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 4:54 pm

      It just defies reasonable belief, and the “plot” would be laughed out of a ‘B’ movie.

      A friend of mine who’d lived here for around twenty years was on his way back here from a visit to the UK when, as his flight was landing, Thailand closed the airport and he had to return to the UK and couldn’t get back here for several months to be with his step-son until he bought an “Elite” Card for a million baht; others, Australian, can’t get back to their own country even if they quarantine on arrival as there’s a “quota”.

      The UK’s got a PM who thinks that despite all the scientific advice there’s an “ancient, inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub,” and that it’s “inhuman” to limit meeting at Christmas; Americans who think it’s fine to shout in each others’ faces, as long as they shout “Jesus” …

      It genuinely defies belief, until you read some of the crap commented here …

    • Avatar

      J West

      Friday, January 15, 2021 at 11:10 am

      Jason, don’t forget to include those who do not require pre flight Covid tests among arriving student visas who take courses online in thier country yet are allowed to enter your country and continue to study online, no attendance required or available.

  3. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    6 months too late. Insane

  4. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 6:29 pm

    I do agree. I’m Australian and here the numbers really are honest (the scientists keep it that way) and we have managed to keep a lid on the virus. The reaction of our authorities could be seen as paranoid….but even paranoids have real enemies! And this virus is a clear and present danger. But I think the time for ignorance is over.

  5. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    In the USA the ignorance isn’t over. Notice this rule change coincides with a new President taking over.

  6. Avatar

    Roger C

    Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 9:32 pm

    Ok, next question…

    Where do I get my test in BKK?

  7. Avatar

    Cats r Great

    Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 11:27 am

    On Oct 07 2020, I did a rushed exit from Thailand for the US, leaving behind my home, wife and family. I really had no choice as my mother had had a stroke (82 now), and had already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I am now stranded in the US with a bunch of idiots coming into power and protests going on everywhere. Nobody checked or tested anything on arrival, not even customs.
    Luckily my mother is back to being functional for her age and has hospice care routinely visiting her. I still haven’t been able to get her or myself (62) the vaccine or even get info on when it will be available. Meanwhile, with all the rules to get home, and my limited funds, I have no idea when or if I will be able to return soon to Thailand. Living in the outskirts or suburbs of a city my wife is now getting alarmed at the number of homeless wondering about, and the number of markets closed. I need to get home!! Instead I’m stuck in this asylum!

    • Avatar

      David Mann

      Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 11:12 pm

      I’m sorry as I’m not fully aware of your situation or your financial limits, but why are you stuck? You should be able to get a visa to return to Thailand even now. You need a Certificate of Entry issued by the local Thai embassy. In order to get a COE you need to initially have medical insurance to cover you for Covid (around $300) for 90 days. When the initial response for the COE comes back you then need to book your flight and quarantine hotel. The embassy then issue the COE. You then need to get a Covid test and a fit to fly medical test no more than 72 hours before your departure.

      It’s obviously some hassle and increased cost. But a quarantine hotel can be had for around $1,000. Covid insurance $300. Covid test and fit to fly another $300. The air fare may also be a little higher than normal, let’s say an extra $200 if one way. All in it will cost you around $2,000. I appreciate that’s not a small amount of cash, but if you want to return to family then it’s not astronomic. Clearly if this is for a months holiday then its madness. But to return home to loved ones and continue with your life then it’s worth sticking on a credit card …..

  8. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 20, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    Makes no sense.

    Covid panic warriors will love it. Restricting other people’s freedoms validates their irrational fear of a virus that has a 0.2% fatality rate. I’m happy that their self esteem will be improved by this meaningless exercise in big pharma profiteering 🙂

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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