Travellers to the UK will need negative Covid test, government confirms

After days of promises by ministers, the government has finally announced that travellers to the UK will have to take a Covid test before departure. But it has not said when exactly the scheme will start.

While airlines and airports broadly welcomed the initiative, one travel industry figure criticised the plan as “not joined up”.

From some time next week, most international arrivals, including UK nationals, will be required to present a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure to the UK.

The procedure will be at the passenger’s expense. It will not apply to arrivals from the republic of Ireland.

Children under 11, lorry drivers and flight, sea and rail crew will be exempt. Passengers travelling from countries deemed to lack “the infrastructure available to deliver the tests” will also avoid the requirement.

It is not yet clear which nations might qualify for this exemption, but the government is expected to provide a list.

Only Scotland and England have announced the measure so far, but Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit.

The testing requirement is in addition to 10 days of self-isolation for arrivals from the vast majority of countries. In England, the traveller can end quarantine after five days with another negative coronavirus test.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps said: “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.

“Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”

While airlines,  train operators and ferry firms will be expected to police the requirement abroad, any passenger who arrives without a certificate faces a £500 fine.

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