Travellers must show negative Covid test to enter UK - THE TIMES
JANUARY 08, 2021
International arrivals to Britain will have to present a negative coronavirus test as the government tries keep out new strains of the virus.
Passengers will be required to show a negative result obtained no more than 72 hours before departure, although measures could be even tighter and include a second test on arrival. Hauliers will be exempt from the restriction.
At present arrivals are required only to complete a passenger locator form and undergo quarantine if arriving from a country not on the government’s “travel corridor” list.
Senior Conservative MPs had demanded immediate action to prevent further importation of new strains such as that identified in South Africa.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that he was “incredibly worried” about the variant yesterday, describing it as a “very, very significant problem”.
Britain banned direct flights from South Africa just before Christmas and required new arrivals to undergo a stricter form of quarantine.
Those travelling from the country indirectly, however, had not been required to prove they did not have the coronavirus before entering the UK.
Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough who leads Boris Johnson’s policy board, suggested that South Korea’s strict arrangements offered an example the UK could follow. Procedures need to “toughen up at the border”, he tweeted.
Senior aviation sources said the government had planned to “revisit” this month the rules on international arrivals but that recent events, including the new South African variant, had prompted “a hastening in the introduction of measures”.
The requirement for a negative test to be taken no more than 72 hours before arrival has been adopted by many countries, including Greece, France and Germany. The strictest countries insist on a test being taken before departure plus a test on arrival and mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days.
The issue of border controls has in the past divided Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, with Ms Patel pushing for greater restrictions on entry for those travelling from high-risk areas.
A former Downing Street official said that Mr Shapps had prevailed after being lobbied by the airline industry for a lighter touch regime. A Whitehall source said that the advent of new variants had put border measures “firmly back on the table”.
Some experts have suggested that the South African variant is already likely to be present in Britain and may be harder to detect than the Kent strain.