I may not have needed a COVID-19 test to return to the UK, but the rules as they were at the time meant that I needed a PCR test 2 days after arriving back. It feels like I'm one of the few people that have never had any sort of COVID-19 test, as since March 2020 I've stayed mostly a home, and haven't had many opportunities to come across people. Of course, going to Germany changed that, and so two days after arriving back I needed the test.
I'd pre-ordered the test through Boots, and the first thing it asks you to do is to register it with their Recova site. Once that's done, there are step-by-step instructions on how to use the swab (this time for the nose only), and it's then as simple as putting it in the tube of fluid, turning it upside down for a few seconds, and then posting it off in the box, with a prepaid Royal Mail 24 tracking label. Strangely, it was going to Manchester, and I'd follow it there in a few days if all went well.
At first, I tried to sending this off at the post office as it said on the sticker that they need to scan the barcode. However, they can't actually accept these tests and they must be posted using a Priority Mail postbox on the same day. Whilst normal postboxes are cylindrical, the one to find here was more like a big box. I did wonder if they'd receive it okay, but the following day I tracked this on the Royal Mail website, and confirmed it'd been delivered swiftly, as they require.
I checked the Recova website around midday, but so far no result. On the Saturday the 24 hour mark came and went, and I got a text message from the NHS Test and Trace service.
NHS Test and Trace has identified you as a contact of someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19. You must now stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your last contact with them, unless you are exempt.
I couldn't believe it, did that mean I'd got COVID-19? I'd tried so hard to avoid it, yet it seemed it somehow still found me. I was on my way to Manchester for an overnight stay for the marathon in the morning. I realised I couldn't do that now. I should probably get on the next train back to Leicester as soon as I arrived. I then started to realise that it said 'contact of someone', it didn't say my test was positive. So, I started to wonder: what if the LFT and/or the PCR test are negative? Could I still run it? I needed to complete the form they provided, but wanted to wait until I was off the train.
Before I was off the train I got a reminder SMS, and then an email to say I’d not yet filled in the details. They’re very eager! On the walk from the train station to Princess Street I completed the form, and due to being double vaccinated I didn’t need to self-isolate, but it did recommend a PCR test. That’s okay - I’d already had one! I did wonder though, how am I supposed to know who tested positive, in order to know when I last had contact with them? It did however say if I preferred to self-isolate that the last day would be next Friday. Judging by the timings from that, it would mean it was someone on my flight from Hamburg to London Heathrow that tested positive.
You do not have to self-isolate. However, you should book a PCR test, even if you do not have symptoms.
Whilst in Manchester I took a Rapid Lateral Flow Test, and this came back negative, and so felt relieved. That evening, 36 hours after they'd received the test, I got the PCR result back also. It was negative. I'd managed to successfully navigate Germany without falling victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.