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Coronavirus / Book your tests early when travelling abroad, health board advises

PEOPLE living in the Scottish islands and returning from international travel have been advised to order their day two PCR tests well in advance of arriving back home as delivery of these tests by courier can take up to a week.

As new stricter international travel rules in response to the spread of the Omicron variant came into force earlier today people now also need to show a negative Covid test before travelling.

Up until now those vaccinated and returning from a non-red list country were required to self-isolate until the result of a day two lateral flow test gave the all clear.

However, as couriers rather than Royal Mail are used to deliver these tests, they often arrive late at island addresses unless they have been ordered well in advance of returning (or indeed visiting).

NHS Shetland said it has had some negative feedback about delivery times, and has also been asked about the lack of a priority post box to return the tests to laboratory.

The health board acknowledged that there were inconveniences. A spokesperson said: “The advice is, wherever possible, for people who are going to take their post travel test(s) in Shetland they need to order them in good time – i.e. as soon as they know they are going away, so that they are ready for them when they get home (or for when they arrive if visiting).

“There are sometimes issues with the speed of couriers in Shetland – for the system to work tests need to be ordered well in advance and if not delivered then chased up.

“The system does not cover all eventualities but in any scenario the public health ask is that people do their best.”

Referring to the new rules that came into force this morning, interim director for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw added: “Tests should be posted in any post box (it does not need to be a priority post box) and the individual isolates whilst awaiting the results.

“Currently it is just a day two PCR test if vaccinated (or aged 11-18) and day two and eight PCR tests and full 10-day isolation if unvaccinated. It is of course different for red list countries.

“Another option is that if people choose to take the test whilst on the mainland after returning from abroad, then they can get them done at one of the private centres (e.g. at airports) and then travel to Shetland and isolate awaiting the result or stay on the mainland and await the result – they may choose to do this if e.g. they would be going home to join a household that has not travelled.”

She added that public health recommends people to do LFTs regularly. They can get these for free and take with them whilst travelling.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Arriving in Scotland from abroad’ webpage has now been updated to include the latest advice.

Dr Laidlaw added: “For people travelling abroad from the UK, then there are different requirements for different countries regarding who is allowed to enter the country, purpose of travel, quarantine, vaccination status; and, if testing is required, the type of test required, the timing, and whether or not it can be a self test.

“Individuals should refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for guidance in the first instance, and this has links to the detailed entry requirements for each country.

Information on how to obtain private tests for travel is here.