Travelling abroad is a whole new experience now with the onset of the pandemic. Added to the challenges and perks of living abroad, there are a host of issues to consider with Covid-19. As you make your preparations for a life of study and experience in the UK, be sure you can take steps to manage your health. Being in an unfamiliar territory is daunting, but here are a few tips to note should you or a loved one test positive for Covid-19.
Pre-departure tests are mostly mandatory for airlines today, even if the UK does not require one, policies can change overnight. Keep in mind that regulations are fluid so be prepared to make any changes if you need to. Once at your destination, you may be required to do further testing, either through the lateral flow method or through PCR procedures.
A positive result means that it is likely you had Covid-19 when the test was done. You must self-isolate immediately. So inform the university administration and make preparations to self-isolate at your accommodation.
There are a few scenarios you may encounter during testing for Covid-19.
Self-isolation in the UK means you do not leave your accommodation to stop the virus from spreading to other people. If you had been sharing a room with a coursemate, urge them to get tested themselves and let them know to follow through with their own self-isolation if needed.
You may not have done a test but your roommate may have had a positive result, that means you need to test yourself and self-isolate as well.
Or perhaps you had developed symptoms, however mild, such as a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. Do a lateral flow test, if that is confirmed positive, self-isolate. The NHS UK advises that you do not need to confirm a positive lateral flow result with a PCR one. You only need to follow through with a PCR if you are asked to do so as part of research, or qualify for new Covid-19 treatments or if the lateral flow was part of your Day 2 arrival test into the UK.
Follow these guidelines on how and where to get tested.
Another scenario that may require you to stay home, is that if you have been informed by the NHS Test and Trace or the NHS Covid-19 app that you’ve been in contact with someone with Covid-19. This is a legal requirement to self-isolate once informed by the app and you may be fined if you breach this.
While it is common sense on what self-isolation means, the NHS UK advises those who need to stay at home to:
- not go to work, school or public places
- not use public transport or taxis
- not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
- not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
- not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have access to the space
But there are exceptions, here’s what you are allowed to do under self-isolation:
- post a PCR test at a Royal Mail priority postbox
- buy food or medicine if you cannot order it online or by phone, or you cannot ask someone to bring it to your home
- seek urgent health services
- avoid harm, for example, if there is a fire
- access services as a victim of crime, for example, if there has been a burglary
You should feel better in a few weeks, but if symptoms get worse, please go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111, or call a nearest doctor on your campus or a GP that you know of.
You are advised to do so if you face any of these situations
- you’re gradually breathless or have difficulty breathing when you stand up or move around
- you feel very weak, achy or tired
- you’re shaking or shivering
- you’ve lost your appetite
- you’re unable to care for yourself – for example, tasks like washing and dressing or making food are too difficult
- you still feel unwell after 4 weeks – you may have Long Covid
You are still able to access support from the NHS Volunteer Responders.
They will be on hand with advice if you need to seek treatment at the nearest hospital. You can call them at (+44) 0808 196 3646 from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week).
They can also help you if you need to collect food and essentials, or pick up prescribed medicines. The volunteers are also tasked to check in with you.
You may need to consider purchasing insurance before your trip abroad. Find out if it is an entry requirement to the UK or for a student visa. Do your research with providers that are available to you.
The UK government site notes that people who live outside the European Union, including former UK residents, are not automatically entitled to free NHS care. With that in mind, you could consider personal health or travel insurance so you can recover any treatment costs. You may be charged at 150% of the NHS national tariff, unless there are exemptions or if there is reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and your home country.