Foreign students returning to the UK from abroad are having to pay for government COVID tests despite Imperial having the capacity to test them itself. Earlier in February, the College announced the suspension of its Test to Release services, which used to provide returning students the opportunity to get tested for free on their 5th day of self-isolation and end their quarantine early. This announcement followed the introduction of tighter restrictions to international travel by the UK government.
The College’s test centre had funding to move to a new site, but lockdown regulations have impeded the official accreditation process by the government. Imperial tests are thus not UKAS-accredited and cannot be used for official tests, such as “Fit to Fly” or Test to Release.
But what does this mean for students travelling to the UK from overseas? According to current government guidelines, anyone entering the UK from abroad has to self-isolate for 10 days and take 2 compulsory COVID tests (on day 2 and day 8); one also has the option to take a test on the 5th day (from an approved private provider) if they wish to end their quarantine early.
As anyone may expect, these tests are far from cheap. The official government’s “travel test package” costs £210, and the optional 5th day “test to release” ranges from £99 to £300 depending on the private provider.
And that is only if you are coming from a country exempt from the “red list”. Otherwise, you have to purchase a hotel quarantine package of £1,750 for 11 nights. If you are unlucky and test positive on either day 2 or 8, then it is an extra £152 per day. Needless to say, that is all pretty good business. And no, there are no students discount available.
So, if you are returning to the UK from abroad, you will have to pay at least £210, on top of all the other usual costs associated with your travel. Students are not happy about it, and many of them feel let down by the College: “I find it a bit expensive; I do not understand why the College is not doing anything about it” said one of them.
While whether or not Imperial’s tests are approved by the government may be outside the College’s control, some sort of financial support is likely to be greatly appreciated by affected students.