All international passengers arriving into the UK will soon have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test completed within 72 hours prior to departure.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insists travellers, including UK nationals, will be unable to board flights “without having that negative test”.
Even with a negative test result, arrivals from countries not on the travel corridor or “air bridges” list must still self-isolate for 10 days. This currently includes many popular European nations such as Italy, Spain, and France.
There have been calls from opposition parties for pre-arrival testing since April but Shapps said the government was “very keen” to introduce compulsory testing now because of the new variant in South Africa, which he said was “causing great concern with the scientists”.
The mutated strain of the virus has some potentially dangerous changes that experts are closely monitoring. They do not however believe the variant will render vaccines useless.
The news comes amid a record number of coronavirus cases and fatalities recorded in the last few days, prompting the Prime Minister to pledge to offer hundreds of thousands of vaccines per day in England by January 15.
When the new rules take effect, anyone who enters the UK without proof of negative result could be immediately fined £500. Exempt individuals include children under 11, hauliers, those travelling from countries without the infrastructure to deliver tests, or arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland.
Details of how to get tests abroad will be published on the official UK Government website.
The new pre-arrival testing rules are set to be UK-wide, though Northern Ireland has so far only “agreed in principle”.
Responding to the need to test before entering the UK, one national, due to fly home from a holiday in Tenerife next week, asked “We are going to be expected to self isolate for 10 days so what is the point of this?”
While figures from the aviation industry have urged the government to lift the new measures as soon as possible.
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary for example stated, “This measure will destroy confidence in forward bookings for air travel and ferries, and it will essentially close off the UK”.
Continuing, O’Leary asked for the government to set an “end date” for the rules and recommends the middle of February in line with vaccination targets for the high-risk population outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
After vaccine rollout accelerates, the Chief Executive of Airlines UK Tim Alderslade believes the focus should be on “returning travel to normal as quickly as possible,” including “removing the need to quarantine or test.”
England has banned travellers arriving from countries near South Africa in order to stop the spread of the local Covid variant.
Other relevant blogs:
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EasyJet Changes Cabin Bag Policy
England Arrivals Will Be Able to Cut Quarantine
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