The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced all international passengers will have to test negative for Covid-19 before travelling to England as of 4am on 18th January 2021. Passengers arriving by plane, boat or train, including UK nationals, will now be required to take a Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before their departure to England. Scotland is set to take the same approach and Wales and Northern Ireland are expecting to announce their plans for pre-arrival testing in the next few days.
The approved types of Covid-19 test required include:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device
It is passengers responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.
The new rules will apply to all arrivals to the UK regardless of their country of departure. Passengers returning from destinations not on the current travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days regardless if they present a negative test result. This of course however can be reduced to five days with the government’s Test and Release programme.
If British nationals test positive for COVID-19 while abroad they should not travel and should follow the local relevant guidance on self-isolation. Transport operators will be required to check that a passenger has proof of a negative test result before they board their flight, train or ferry, and may deny boarding where appropriate to reduce numbers of non-compliant individuals arriving in the UK. UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival with those failing to comply with the new rules at risk of receiving a £500 on-the-spot fine.
All returning and incoming travellers will need to continue to fill in the passenger locator form.
Exemptions to the new restrictions include children under the age of 11, airline crew, hauliers and “those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests.” Those arriving from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Lucia will be exempt until 4am on Thursday 21st January.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps commented:
“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.”