Mandatory Covid testing will be introduced for everyone arriving in England from 4am on Friday, the Government has confirmed today.
All visitors and all residents travelling back to England will need proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the test must be ‘of a diagnostic-standard test’ such as a PCR, but it said it could ‘in some cases’ include LAMP and lateral flow tests. Further details will be included in legislation to be published later this week.
Children under 11 are exempt, as are a limited number of other travellers including flight and international rail crew.
Those returning from St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda will also be exempt until 21 January due to a lack of testing facilities on the Caribbean islands.
The Government said the mandatory Covid screening is likely to remain in place until the end of the current lockdown, but it will be reviewed.
It said the measure was being introduced due to increasing instances of Covid-19 around the world, including the emergence of new variants.
Anyone arriving in England from a country not on the travel corridor list will also have to self-isolate for up to 10 days, even if they have proof of a negative Covid test, said the DfT. However, they can end their quarantine early if they have a second negative Covid test taken after five days of quarantine.
Airlines, train and ferry operators will be required to check that a passenger has proof of a negative test result before boarding and may ban any customers without a negative test, said the DfT.
Border Force will also conduct further checks upon arrival and there will be minimum fines of £500 for anyone caught entering England without a negative Covid test result.
Operators will also be fined for transporting non-compliant passengers.
Passengers travelling to England from Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey will be exempt.
Travel industry reaction
Airlines said the industry has been lobbying from pre-departure testing, but called for this to be a time-limited measure.
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said: “This is a national health emergency and Ministers need to act to keep the country safe.
“It is true that much of the sector has been lobbying for pre-departure testing – but this was always predicated on the Government removing or reducing the quarantine period at the same time.
“Now we have both quarantine and pre-departure testing. That’s why this new policy needs to be a time-limited, emergency measure only, in place not a second longer than necessary, and with a proper review mechanism once lockdown comes to an end. We cannot afford for this to be baked in over the whole summer.
“The focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible and removing the need to quarantine or take a test as the UK population is vaccinated. Ideally, as the vaccination roll-out gathers pace and the most at-risk parts of the country are inoculated, we can start to see the economy, and travel, open up, which would enable the sector to have what will be a critical summer season for aviation.”