Covid roadmap: Testing, travel and vaccine passports - what has and has not changed?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation from Downing Street at 5pm. Credit: No 10

Boris Johnson has warned against complacency as England prepares for the next step out of lockdown.

From international travel to vaccine passports and mass testing, here is what the prime minister has announced.

Free twice-weekly Covid testing to be offered to everyone in England

Mr Johnson is pinning his hopes on mass testing to help boost confidence and encourage people to check whether they have Covid-19 before venturing to the shops or the pubs.

To minimise risk of infection when non-essential retail, gyms, hairdressers and libraries reopen on April 12, ministers have promised to supply everyone in England with two quick-result lateral flow tests each week.

The lateral flow tests, which are being widely used in schools, can provide results in as little as 30 minutes, with the two-tests-per-week available from April 9.

Twice-weekly testing is being made available days before England takes its next step out of lockdown on April 12, which will also see pubs and restaurants reopen outdoors with restrictions.

Spectators will have to take a lateral flow test before attending events Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

How much is this testing going to cost?

The two-weekly tests Covid tests will be made available for free to residents in England.

The lateral flow tests – which can provide results in around 30 minutes – will be available regardless of whether people have symptoms.

Health minister Edward Argar would not put a precise figure on it on Monday, but said the cost would be covered by the two-year £37 billion NHS Test and Trace budget.

How can you get your hands on a rapid Covid test?

People will be able to obtain a test through a home ordering service, workplace or school testing programme, or by collecting one at a local test site.

This includes:

  • Home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home

  • Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home

  • Community testing, offered by all local authorities

  • Collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows

  • Testing on-site at schools and colleges

Is this testing rollout instead of using vaccine passports?

The testing rollout is available to all those living in England under the NHS.

But Mr Johnson has made it clear the so-called vaccine passports, which he is now calling "Covid status certification" won't be introduced in stages two or three of the lockdown reopening roadmap.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has been leading the vaccine passport taskforce review and, although it is not expected to be finalised until the summer, the prime minister has promised an update on the scope of the work.

The certificates are expected to show whether an individual has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has "natural immunity", having tested positive in the previous six months.

Will vaccine passports definitely happen?

Even if the Prime Minister does sign off on the idea, there is enough disgruntlement to suggest a vote in the House of Commons on their use could result in a government defeat.

Senior Labour shadow cabinet member Rachel Reeves said her party had “many reservations” about their domestic deployment, while more than 40 Tory MPs have signed a cross-party letter opposing vaccine passports, meaning it could be a tight result.

Can you still go to a mass event without needing to show proof of a vaccine?

Yes, the government has announced pilots to test the use of Covid certificates for mass gatherings from sporting events to nightclubs.

Spectators at events over the coming weeks, such as the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15, will be required to be tested for Covid-19 both before and after the event.

They will not, however, have to show proof of a vaccine.

Ministers insist the certificates – which could be a mobile phone app or a paper document – will never be required for essential services such as supermarkets, public transport or GP surgeries, but could be useful for managing the risks at music festivals, sporting matches and nightclubs.

What about for foreign travel – will I need to have had the vaccine to go abroad?

The prime minister has previously indicated proof of having a Covid vaccine will be likely for those wanting to travel internationally.

Despite the government’s own approach for lifting restrictions on holidays abroad starting from May 17 at the earliest, Mr Johnson has made it clear the third phase of reopening lockdown will not include the vaccine passport.

Brits have been urged to wait before booking holidays overseas with summer. Credit: AP

Downing Street has also confirmed when the rules are relaxed there will be a risk-based "traffic light" system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

Travellers arriving from countries rated green will not be required to isolate although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as amber or red, the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.

Officials have made clear that there will be no announcement this week on which country is on which list – a decision which has been criticised by tourism industry bosses.


  • Listen to our coronavirus podcast