In a move that has been nine months too late, Her Majesty’s Government is to require passengers arriving into the UK to test negative for COVID-19, before travelling to the United Kingdom.
A full statement has been published of the Government’s intent at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mandatory-covid-19-testing-introduced-to-bolster-border-measures
Passengers arriving from all international destinations will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England to help protect against new strains of coronavirus circulating internationally.
This will apply to inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train. You will need to have taken at test no more than 72 hours before departure.
It applies to both UK Citizen and Visitors.
The move comes after 9 months of pressure from airports, and in a move to protect the UK against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.
Pre-departure testing will be needed for all international travel except within the Common Travel Area
Passengers arriving from countries, not on the government’s travel corridor list must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result to provide further robust protection from those travelling from high-risk countries.
Before departure passengers will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to carriers, as well as their passenger locator form. The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant.
What sort of tests are needed?
Whilst the test type hasn’t been confirmed, Grant Shapps was talking of both rapid testing as well as normal lab tests. This would indicate both PCR tests and Antigen tests will be accepted. However, this has not been confirmed at the time of writing.
The government will set out the standards that these tests will need to meet and what proof passengers will need to present.
Who is exempt?
There will be a limited number of exemptions, including for
- Children under 11,
- Those who travel from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests
- Travel from within Common Travel Area (Ireland, Jersey Guernsey, The Isle of Man) and Ireland)
Further exemptions will be set out on GOV.UK next week.
Can I shorten the isolation period?
Yes – Passengers arriving into England who have successfully demonstrated a negative result before departure from a country not on the travel corridor list will still have the option to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to as little as 5 days by paying for a test through the Test to Release scheme. The scheme requires a test to be taken on or after the fifth full day since leaving a country, not on the travel corridor list.
Can I travel without a negative COVID-19 test?
No. Passengers will be required to show their negative test result before boarding, and transport operators will deny boarding if necessary. On arrival back into the UK, Border Force will check passengers test results through the current spot check regime, to ensure that individuals are compliant with the new rules, and passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500.
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary said:
We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.
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.
Whilst no exact date has been given for this go live other than “next week”, assume this will come in quickly. As such, if you are UK bound, it is imperative you obtain a valid negative COVID-19 test before you set off on your travels.
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