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Could the UK be about to introduce new Covid travel restrictions?

Oh dear, this sounds familiar

Written by
Faima Bakar

Cast your minds back to February 2022: a time when we had to abide by travel restrictions like mandatory Covid testing, quarantining and passenger locator forms. Things are a bit more simple now, right?  

Perhaps not for long. There’s a possibility that certain pandemic rules could be reintroduced in response to the surge in positive Covid cases in China. Several countries have already planned new restrictions for visitors arriving from China and other countries, including mandatory testing.

What are the chances of this happening over here? Here’s what there is to know about the likelihood of new travel restrictions arriving in the UK.

Which countries have imposed new travel restrictions?

From January 5, the USA is asking visitors arriving from China, Seoul, Hong Kong, Macau, Toronto and Vancouver to show a negative Covid test result or evidence of recovery from a recent positive case.

Italy has the same rule for arrivals from China, while Spain has recently announced that arrivals from the country will be required to test negative or prove they have been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, from January 1, anyone travelling to India from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand will have to upload a negative PCR test result, taken 72 hours prior, to a government website.

From the same date, Taiwan has said that arrivals from mainland China will need to be tested on arrival. Japan, meanwhile, has said that anyone who visited China in the past week must be tested on arrival from December 30.

Will the UK introduce new Covid travel restrictions?

While the UK government has it has no plans to reintroduce rules, that could change in the future. Ministers have said the government is keeping the situation ‘under review’ and the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) is monitoring development.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace recently said that the Department for Transport would take medical advice and talk to the Department of Health.

UK Health Minister Will Quince said the government is taking the situation ‘incredibly seriously’, but there was ‘no evidence at this point of a new variant from China’, which would be the key threat. ‘At the moment the variant that is in China currently is already prevalent here in the UK,’ he said.

However, Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency, thinks that new restrictions could be likely.

‘I think it’s inevitable that the UK will follow the move by several other countries to put greater restrictions on those flying from China,’ he told The Independent. ‘I’d expect changes by this time next week, just before China removes its own restrictions [for inbound travellers] on January 8.’

What are the current rules for travelling to the UK from abroad?

You do not need to take any Covid tests or fill in a passenger locator form to travel into the UK. This applies whether you are fully vaccinated or not.

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