The Department for Transport (DfT) said that all passengers arriving into the United Kingdom will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 72 hours from the start of their journey.
The move will take effect from “next week” for arrivals into England, and “as soon as possible” for Scotland. “Officials are said to be working closely with the devolved administrations on similar measures for Wales and Northern Ireland”, reports BBC.
The DfT is yet to confirm what type of tests will be acceptable for entry, stating simply that “The government will set out the standards that these tests will need to meet and what proof passengers will need to present”.
Until now, what is known is that travellers will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result “before departing the country they are in”, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.
“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.”said Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary.
This rule will apply to all travellers regardless of their country of departure, and travellers arriving from destinations not on the current travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their test result (although this can be reduced to 5 days with the ‘Test and Release Programme’ in which if you test negative after the 5th day of quarantine, then you will not be required to stay in quarantine any longer). All passengers will still be required to fill in a passenger locator form.
“The introduction of pre-departure tests is understandable from a public health perspective but the Government has missed an opportunity to further reduce quarantine under the Test-to-Release scheme in England. Travel bans introduced before Christmas and the lockdown measures introduced this week mean UK aviation is, once again, effectively closed. This has made devastating situation for UK airports and communities relying on aviation worse. Aviation will only fully recover when the need for quarantine is eliminated on a four-nation basis across the UK. Testing, including pre-departure tests, has a crucial role to play in that. We urge the Government to work with industry and public health authorities to take further steps on pre-departure and rapid testing as soon as possible to safely remove quarantine altogether. Until that happens, industry cannot recover fully so Government must provide financial support to protect connectivity and its global Britain and levelling-up agendas.”said Karen Dee, Chief, Airport Operators Association.
Hauliers, children under the age of 11, crews and those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests will be exempted from the new restrictions.
“We recognise the UK Government’s need to act now and support the introduction of pre-departure testing in order to keep the country safe and borders open. However, this should be a short-term, emergency measure only and once the roll-out of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery. This includes removing the need to quarantine or test as the UK population is vaccinated and the virus is brought under control at home and abroad. Ultimately, cheaper and quicker testing is required to ensure travel can be accessible while testing is required but then needs to be unwound once vaccinations and the overall threat of Covid recedes.”said Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines,UK.
The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival, and anyone failing to produce the evidence of a negative COVID-19 test will be hit with an immediate fine of 500 pounds ($678).
“The BTA welcomes the announcement of pre-departure testing for all travellers coming into the UK and the prioritising of public health. We have been campaigning for this since May 2020. The testing scheme, travel corridor list and quarantine requirements will need to be kept under close review so that business travellers can contribute fully to the UK economy as international borders open up. We look forward to working with the Government to develop wider understanding of the breadth of work being undertaken by UK business travellers across the international trade market.”said Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA).
“Decisive action is in response to the changes seen in the transmission of the virus both domestically and across the globe”, said the DfT, adding that “Pre-departure testing will protect travel and will provide an additional layer of safety from imported cases of coronavirus on top of the mandatory ten day self-isolation for arrivals, helping identify people who may currently be infectious and preventing them from travelling to England”.
“WTTC supports measures designed to curb COVID-19 and protect public health but calls for the complete removal of unnecessary quarantines. Requiring inbound travellers and holidaymakers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test should ensure safe travel. This will be critical to encourage essential bookings for future flights and holidays. However, there is still uncertainty around the type of tests which will be accepted upon arrival, and they must be made widely accessible and affordable for all. But unlike many other countries where the proof of a negative test has replaced quarantines, to further insist all arriving travellers must isolate for ten days or undergo a further test five days later is an unnecessary precaution. It will only stifle travel, putting yet more pressure on the embattled Travel and Tourism sector. Continuing with these damaging quarantines and added unnecessary restrictions will impact forward bookings which will be vital to revive international air travel, bring back Travel and Tourism sector jobs and resuscitate the global economy, while also protecting public health. WTTC has long called for an internationally recognised rapid and cost-effective testing regime upon departure at airports worldwide. This would avoid exporting the virus, especially by departing outbound passengers, and aid the restoration of international travel. According to the WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, the importance of inbound international visitors is laid bare; international visitor spend in 2019 contributed £28.2 billion, representing 4.2 per cent of the UK’s total exports. Travel and Tourism is critical to the UK’s economic well-being and is responsible for almost four million jobs, or 11 per cent of the country’s total workforce. It also generated nearly £200 billion GDP, or 9 per cent to the UK economy.”said Gloria Guevara, President and CEO, World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
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