For many, it’ll feel like far too little, far too late. But as fears grow over more infectious strains of Covid-19, the British government will now require all international travellers to present a negative test result on arrival in the UK. Although the measure was initially intended to apply only to countries not on the travel-corridor list, it will now affect all incoming travellers, from any country.
Anyone arriving by plane, train or boat – including returning residents – will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are currently in. Even if they test negative, travellers will still have to self-isolate for ten days (or five days, if they pay for another test which comes back negative).
Announcing the government’s new testing policy last week, Grant Shapps, the UK’s Transport Secretary, said he was ‘very keen to do it now’ because of growing concern over the new variant of the virus circulating in South Africa. ‘They’re not sure whether for example the vaccine will be able to deal with it in the first place, and we’re very, very keen to keep it out,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
The new rules were due to come into force in England from today, but will now start on Monday (January 18) to allow international arrivals time to prepare. Because of further concern over a new variant circulating in Brazil and South America, British prime minister Boris Johnson this afternoon announced the rule change would apply to all travellers to the UK, no matter where in the world they are travelling from.
Anyone who arrives in the UK without evidence of a recent negative test result could receive an on-the-spot £500 fine. It’s unclear what would happen if you’re gormless enough to turn up at the border with a positive test result. There will only be exemptions for children under 11, hauliers, those travelling from the Common Travel Area with Ireland, and those travelling from countries without the infrastructure to deliver rapid tests (these include the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia).
With the UK battling a huge outbreak of its own, more contagious variant – and England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all now under ‘stay-at-home’ orders – there had been speculation over the past fortnight that the country would go as far as shutting its borders altogether in an effort to curb the spread of new strains. Whether or not this will still happen now depends on how successful the new test requirements are in keeping out other variants. So, international travellers and UK residents alike: watch this space.