U.K. Imposes Mandatory Covid Tests on All Incoming Travelers - BLOOMBERG
JANUARY 08, 2021
BY Tim Ross
(Bloomberg) -- All passengers arriving in the U.K. will be required to prove they do not have coronavirus, showing a negative test result taken within 72 hours of the start of their journey.
Under new rules announced by the British government, anyone failing to produce the evidence of a negative test will be hit with an immediate fine of 500 pounds ($678). Travelers arriving from countries that are not on the government’s open travel corridor list will be required to isolate at home for 10 days, regardless of their test results.
The measures, set out by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, will come into force next week for passengers arriving at a British port by plane, boat or train. The plan is aimed at stopping new strains of Covid-19 coming into the U.K., such as one identified in South Africa, as the government accelerates the roll-out of vaccines, Shapps said.
“The South African variant is worrying the experts because it may be that the vaccine doesn’t respond in the same way,” Shapps told LBC radio Friday. “If that was the case it would be a tragedy to allow that into the country.”
Entry to England will also be banned to those who have traveled from or through any southern African country in the last 10 days, the government announced, including Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Ministers were criticized for taking too long to impose border restrictions during the first wave of the pandemic last spring. This week British authorities put the country into its third national lockdown as infection rates soared. The death toll from coronavirus now stands at more than 78,000.
‘Line of Defense’
“Pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defense -- helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks,” Shapps said in an emailed statement earlier.
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Officials have been in talks for several days on how to coordinate a border policy across all four nations of the U.K., which have control over their own transport policies. In a separate statement, the Scottish government has agreed to the plan and said the measures will be brought in as soon as possible.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford told the BBC on Friday he strongly supported the new rules and expected them to apply across the U.K.
Passengers will need to show their negative test results before boarding and will be stopped if necessary. There will be some exemptions from the new rules, including for haulers, children under the age of 11, and for travelers leaving countries without an adequate testing infrastructure in place.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his blueprint for a mass vaccination program to protect about 15 million elderly and vulnerable people people across the U.K., and their carers, by a self-imposed deadline of Feb. 15. After that, the government will look at whether to begin lifting some of the lockdown rules.
(Updates with more detail on variant from South African from third paragraph)