Where to get lateral flow tests in Scotland, how to book them and how much they cost under new travel rules
Travel rules around testing requirements for people arriving in Scotland are set to change this weekend – here’s what you need to know about lateral flow tests for travel and how to book them
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing to MSPs in Holyrood that rules around testing requirements for people arriving in Scotland will be brought in line with England this week.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday (26 October) that changes to Scotland’s current requirements for Covid travel testing would see mandatory PCR testing dropped in favour of more affordable lateral flow tests to match the international travel rule changes which took effect in England on 24 October.
Lateral flow tests are more accurate in testing symptomless individuals than PCR tests, which are still used to confirm positive lateral flow test results across the UK.
But what are the new rules around travel testing in Scotland?
Here’s what you need to know about the changes to testing requirements for Scottish travellers, how to book them and how much they cost.
What are the new Covid travel testing requirements for Scotland?
At the moment, double-vaccinated people arriving back in Scotland from travel abroad to non-red list destinations are required to take a PCR test within 72 hours of their return.
The PCR tests have to be booked through a supplier approved by the UK Government and registered on the Government’s list of Covid testing suppliers, or booked through the CRM booking portal at a cost of £68.
But the First Minister’s announcement will see these rules change this weekend to match the easing of testing requirements recently taking effect in England.
The travel testing changes will now allow fully-vaccinated travellers to opt for a cheaper lateral flow test for their ‘Day 2 test’ on arriving in Scotland – ditching requirements for costlier PCR tests.
However, these lateral flow tests must have a specificity of 97% or more and sensitivity of 80% or more at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
The tests also cannot be those which are made freely available by the UK Government online or at mobile and community testing sites in Scotland.
And if you test positive on your day two lateral flow test, you will be required to self-isolate and get a PCR test to confirm the result.
Will travel testing requirements change for non-vaccinated travellers?
The new rules allowing those arriving in Scotland to use a lateral flow test for their day two test only apply to those who have received two doses of a Covid vaccine and are thus fully vaccinated against the virus.
Lateral flow tests can also only be used for those arriving in Scotland from non-red list destinations, with seven countries still on the UK red list and posing a high Covid risk to travellers.
When will the Scotland travel test changes take effect?
Travellers will be able to book tests from the UK Government website from 5pm on Friday.
But the changes to Scotland’s travel testing requirements will officially come into effect at 4am on Sunday 31 October.
Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said: "For practical reasons, the Scottish Government has decided to align with this change.
"From 4am on Sunday 31 October, therefore, people travelling to Scotland can also provide a lateral flow test - rather than a PCR test - on day two of their arrival.
"Travellers will be able to book lateral flow tests from the list of private providers on the gov.uk site from around 5pm on Friday - in advance of their arrival into Scotland.”
How can I book a lateral flow test for travel in Scotland?
Those who are fully vaccinated and looking to get a lateral flow test for their day two travel test for arrival in Scotland will be able to book these from a list of approved providers from 5pm on Friday 29 October.
The list of lateral flow test providers is currently available to view on the GOV.UK website, but options for day two lateral flow tests currently are only available for those in ‘England only’.
This will however change on Friday, when people travelling to Scotland will also be able to book tests for when requirements are eased.
How much do the lateral flow tests cost?
While lateral flow tests on the UK Government’s list of providers vary considerably in price depending on the type of test available, those set to become available for those travelling to Scotland are expected to cost between £20 to £30.
This price is far less than the £68 PCR test alternative still required for those arriving from red list countries and who have not received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
But those travelling to Scotland must keep in mind the strict rules around lateral flow tests to be used for day two tests – which the Scottish Government has outlined as required to have a specificity of 97% or more and sensitivity of 80% or more at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
Find out more on the Scottish Government website.
Additional reporting by PA Scotland Political Reporter Craig Paton