All international passengers will soon have to test negative for Covid-19 before travelling to the UK under new government plans. People arriving by plane, train or boat, including UK nationals, will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are in.
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said passengers would not be able to board without having a negative test. The new measures will be on top of the rule to self-isolate for ten days when arriving in the UK.
Shapps said the government was very keen to do it now because of the new variant of the virus circulating in South Africa, which he said was causing great concern with the scientists. However, there is a strong case such measures should be introduced at any point over the past year.
The new measures are expected to come into force across the UK this week, and as soon as possible in Scotland.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport commented: “We have long been an advocate of pre-departure testing and this announcement brings us in line with many other countries and closer to having a consistent, internationally coordinated pre-departure testing regime.”
When current lockdown restrictions are eased, and infection rates decrease, pre-departure testing could ultimately encourage frequent international travel to restart by eliminating the need for arriving passengers to quarantine.
Anyone who fails to comply with the new travel regulations could face an immediate GBP 500 (USD 678) fine. There will, however, be a small number of exemptions, including hauliers, children under 11, and those travelling from countries without the infrastructure to deliver tests.
Arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland will also be exempt. All passengers arriving from countries not on the travel corridor list must still self-isolate for ten days, regardless of their test result.