Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that any arrivals to the UK must present a negative COVID-19 test or face a fine of £500
International travellers must now present a negative COVID-19 test alongside their passports, taken within the last 72 hours before arriving at the UK border. This applies to travel by boat, train and plane.
The move comes 10 months after the COVID pandemic begun in the UK.
Yesterday (7 January), the country saw 1,162 virus-related deaths, bringing the official death toll up to 75,508.
Currently, there are global fears of the UK exporting the B117 mutation – which is described as atleast 50% more infectious than previous mutations of the virus. This mutation is considered by PM Boris Johnson to be partially responsible for the steep rise in UK case figures. Political and scientific leaders are similarly concerned about new COVID strains in Denmark and South Africa.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye commented: “So, if you’re caught out in one of those countries, and you now have these new requirements, then you’ll find it quite difficult to get the tests that are needed in order to come back home again.
“And that’s going to be a real challenge for a lot of passengers.”
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: “Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “This is a necessary step, as it’s vital to do everything possible to control the spread of the virus and any further strains.
“However, Labour has been calling for a comprehensive strategy on testing for international travel since April. Instead the Government has been lurching from one crisis to another.”
Is self-isolation still necessary?
The short answer is yes.
The passenger locator form that allows UK authorities to find individuals and trace COVID-19 chains will continue to be used, with Border Force conducting “spot checks” to make sure that new arrivals are following regulations.
The self isolation period of 5 to 10 days would still apply to all travellers, even with the negative COVID-19 result. Those travelling indirectly from South Africa will be required to isolate for the full 10 days, while direct travel between the UK and South Africa remains suspended.
Are there any exceptions to the new rule?
Hauliers, children under 11, crews and individuals who are travelling from “countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests” are allowed to enter the UK without a negative COVID-19 test.