Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission that helps contribute to the running of the site. Traveling For Miles has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Traveling For Miles and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. For more details please see the disclosures found at the bottom of every page.
The UK government currently imposes a mandatory 10-day quarantine on visitors arriving into England from a wide variety of countries around the world (including the US). Since the middle of December, however, visitors have been able to shorten that quarantine period to as little as 6 days thanks to the ‘Test To Release’ program that was introduced. A little surprisingly, the COVID test available at the Sofitel Heathrow T5 qualifies for this program.
The Test To Release Program
The UK government’s Test To Release program allows visitors from most countries* who would ordinarily be required to self-isolate for 10 days upon their arrival in England, to cut short that isolation period if they test negative for COVID-19 five days after they departed the last country they visited.
The Test To Release program is voluntary, it applies to England only, the COVID test has to be taken a full five days after a visitor last departed from a country that isn’t on England’s travel corridor list, and a person cannot stop self-isolating until a negative test result has been confirmed.
Per the UK government, to take part in the scheme you need to:
- Book a test with one of these private test providers (the cost of the test is born by the visitor)
- Choose to opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form that you are required to complete before you arrive in England.
You will be asked to enter the details of your test in the passenger locator form and you must do this to take part in the scheme (you’ll have to book your test before you travel to England in order that you can enter details of the test when you opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form).
Visitors wishing to take advantage of the Test To Release scheme will need to book an individual test for each person, including children.
The test provider will either send a test to your address or you can attend a testing site. You may leave self-isolation to post your test or to travel directly to and from the testing site.
*At the time of writing, visitors from South Africa are excluded from the Test To Release program.
The Sofitel Test Qualifies!
The Sofitel London Heathrow T5 has been including a COVID test in one of its package rates since early November (here’s how to book it) but the test that’s on offer isn’t the same as a lot of the more invasive tests that appear to be considered most robust. While a lot of the major COVID tests include taking swabs from a person’s nose and throat, the COVID test offered by the Sofitel Heathrow T5 only requires a person to spit into a tube (click here to see a step by step account of what the Sofitel’s test is like).
It’s because of this that I assumed that the Sofitel’s test wouldn’t be accepted by the English authorities for the purpose of Test To Release – I was wrong.
If you check the list of private testing providers that the UK Government has authorized to participate in the Test To Release program, you’ll find that a company called ‘Halo Verify’ appears part-way down the list.
Halo Verify is the company that provides the tests for the Sofitel London Heathrow T5.
At first, I thought that Halo may offer more than one kind of COVID test (the one that’s offered at the Sofitel and a more invasive test too) and that only the more robust/invasive test would be accepted by the UK authorities but, after calling both Halo and Sofitel, I’ve had it confirmed that the test provided at the Sofitel qualifies for the Test To Release program.
I’ve taken a Halo test at the Sofitel twice and on both occasions my results were available within 24 hours of having handed in the test – that’s good news if you’re keen to get out of self-isolation as soon as possible. The rapid RT-LAMP test offered by Collinson at Heathrow will probably offer even quicker results, but with the demand for these rapid tests increasing every day your best chance of getting a test on the date that suits you may be via a booking at the Sofitel Heathrow T5.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re traveling with children that will require a COVID test, the Sofitel’s Halo test is likely to create a lot less drama than any test that requires swabs to be taken from the nose and throat.
The Sofitel’s ‘Rest and Test’ rates start at £249 for two people with one night stay and two COVID tests (they start at £179 for one night + 1 COVID test) – book here.