United Kingdom imposes mandatory COVID-19 tests for global travellers amid virus surge

Andrew Cummings
January 20, 2021

All worldwide passengers arriving in England will have to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours before departure, the British government said Friday. Wales and Northern Ireland would follow similar control measures as they remain in lockdown.

He explained that pre-departure testing will protect travel and will provide an additional layer of safety from imported cases of COVID-19 on top of the mandatory 10-day quarantine for arrivals, helping identify people who may now be infectious and preventing them from travelling to England. Spot checks will be carried out by U.K. Border Force to monitor compliance.

All passengers will be subject to a fine of £500 if they fail to comply with the new regulations on pre-departure testing.

"Taken alongside one another with the current mandatory self-isolation time period for travellers returning from higher-danger nations around the world, pre-departure assessments will deliver a further line of defence - serving to us handle the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace more than the coming months".

The country already has a quarantine regime, requiring arrivals from countries not on its travel corridor list to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival - a measure that will still apply alongside the new testing requirements.

Tests will need to be taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.

The new requirement also applies to United Kingdom nationals as part of additional measures to help protect against new strains of COVID-19 circulating internationally.

National lockdown restrictions which came into force on 6 January 2021 remain in place meaning everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons, including for work. The government will set out the standards that these tests will need to meet and what proof passengers will need to present.

Passengers will be required to show their negative test result before boarding, and transport operators will deny boarding if necessary, the same source said.

England is to introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for all global arrivals in a bid to curb the spread of new virus variants, the department of transport said on Friday.

"That is why we have been in regular dialogue with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations about what further measures can be put in place, including the introduction of pre-departure testing".

Those who travel indirectly from South Africa must self-isolate for 10 days.

Undoubtedly this causes much disruption for travellers making their way to the UK. Arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland will also be exempt.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said: "This should be a short-term, emergency measure only and once the rollout 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".

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