We explain the rules connected with testing positive for COVID-19 while you are abroad – from how to extend your stay to what may happen if a PCR returns a positive result while you are recovering.
With the current travel rules for the UK stating that a pre-departure COVID-19 test is required three days before the date of your return to the UK – many holidaymakers have found themselves unable to travel home on the date they intended this summer, as they have been faced with an extended stay due to quarantine rules.
It is a known risk of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is important that you take the time to understand what to do if you test positive for COVID at any point during your time abroad.
Firstly, insure yourself, and check your EHIC/CHIC
As soon as you book a foreign trip at the moment, you should take out travel insurance and make sure you are comfortable with the level of protection your holiday insurance policy offers in the event of you possibly contracting COVID-19 just before you travel or while you are on holiday abroad.
You may also want to ensure it covers the cost of hospital treatment abroad as well, or your travel home for further treatment if necessary.
If you are travelling in the European Union and you qualify, then you may want to check your EHIC (UK European Health Insurance Card) or GHIC (UK Global Health Insurance Card) to ensure it is in date and will allow you to access state-provided healthcare. The GHIC replaced the EHIC after BREXIT (which are still valid until the date of their expiry) – and are free to obtain from the NHS.
Secondly, make sure you are following country-specific requirements
If you test positive for COVID while you are on holiday abroad, you should not travel to see a doctor – stay in your accommodation.
If your symptoms are mild and you do not require medical treatment, you should follow the legal requirements of the country you are in. It is best to familiarise yourself with these before your trip to avoid any surprises – they can be found on the Foreign Office travel advice lists.
If you are on holiday in Spain, for example, and test positive then you must self-isolate in your accommodation and call the “regional hotline or helpline numbers” and remain in your accommodation until contacted by local Spanish authorities. Be warned though, this could take between 48 and 72 hours and would mean extending your stay in your accommodation which may come at an extra cost to yourself.
It is also possible that you may be moved to government-provided accommodation and you could be split up from your friends and family if there are a lot of you. In Valencia, for example, some hotels have self-designate isolation rooms specifically for tourists while other regions expect tourists to pay for their extended stay.
In Greece, it is recommended that you contact your accommodation provider to get a list of private doctors who offer COVID tests for those who are displaying symptoms – at a cost to the holidaymakers. However, if you are moved to government-provided accommodation for your self-isolation period, then the cost will be covered by the Greek government.
If your symptoms persist after the ten days of self-isolation is up, then you must continue to self-isolate until you have been clear of any symptoms for three days.
The period of self-isolation is ten days in most countries in the EU – regardless of whether you have been vaccinated or not.
Thirdly, extend your travel insurance
We have already mentioned how important travel insurance is to help you to recoup any costs incurred for unexpected extra days spent in your accommodation, and sometimes additional daily expenses as well.
If you only have a single-trip holiday insurance policy, then you may need to extend it to cover the period until you return home.
Fourthly, Prepare for your return home
You may have fragments of inactive COVID-19 in your body, that may be detected by PCR tests following an infection, even after you have finished you isolation and are no longer considered infectious.
If you have registered a positive test result on the NHS COVID test pass, then it will also show that you are recovering from COVID as well as your vaccination status.
Testing on your return to the UK
Current travel rules state that you must take a COVID test two days after returning back to the UK – and a further test on day 8 is also required if you are self-isolating and are unvaccinated or returning from a country on the red list).
If either of your day 2 or day 8 tests return a positive result after a recent COVID infection, even if you have isolated yourself before returning to the UK, then a second period of quarantine will be required.