In a significant change to the UK’s coronavirus policy, all international arrivals to England will be required to present a negative coronavirus test. This could begin as early as next Thursday as long as the required legislation can be passed.
Importantly, the rules applies to returning UK residents as well as visitors. There will apparently be opt-outs for arrivals from countries where testing is not easily available, as well as for arrivals from Ireland.
The test will need to have been taken up to 72 hours before BOARDING, not arrival. It applies to boats and trains as well as air arrivals.
Children under 11 will be exempt.
At present the law will only apply to arrivals in England but it is expected that the other devolved assemblies will agree to identical measures.
The penalty for arriving without a test will be £500. However, it only talks of Border Force doing ‘spot checks’ so it is possible that the onus will be placed on the airlines to police this.
You still need to quarantine, however
Frustratingly, arriving in the UK with a negative test result will NOT remove the requirement for a 10 day quarantine period for arrivals from countries not on the ‘travel corridors’ list, although this can be reduced if you take a further test after five days.
Full details are still to be published
Legislation will be required for this move, which will be brought before Parliament next week. We may not know the exact small print, such as what sort of tests will be accepted, which countries will be exempt and exactly what sort of paperwork will be accepted by Border Force, until then.
PS. The Government quietly slipped out some changes to the ‘travel corridors’ list yesterday without the usual fanfare. Botswana, Israel, Mauritius and Seychelles will be removed from the exempt list at 4am on Saturday 9th January. You will need to quarantine for 10 days, or take ‘test to release’ after 5 days, if you are returning from these countries.