Anyone travelling into the UK will soon be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.
This comes as part of a significant toughening of border controls, as the Government attempts to control the rapid rise of Covid cases in the country.
Yesterday, there were 60,916 new cases of Covid-19 in the UK – a new high, and second in the world only to the US.
Boris Johnson confirmed the plans to test arrivals on Tuesday night, telling reporters: “In protecting the UK from transmission from abroad, we will bring in measures to ensure that we test people coming into this country and prevent the virus from being readmitted.”
So how will this work? How much will it cost? Who will need to take the test? And which countries will it apply to? Here, we explain what we know so far about the UK’s new testing requirements.
Which countries will it apply to?
This will apply to arrivals from all countries, including those on the ‘travel corridor’ list.
Who needs to take a test?
Every adult passenger will need to take a test, including returning UK residents and foreign nationals.
Will I still need to quarantine on arrival?
Though the policy is still to be finalised, it is understood that people arriving from ‘red listed’ countries (without a travel corridor) will still have to quarantine on arrival – even if their test is negative. They will be able to end their self-isolation after taking a second test after five days.
When will this begin?
The new policy is expected to be unveiled in the next 48 hours and could come into effect as early as next week.
What type of test will I need to get?
It is likely to be a Covid-19 PCR test, rather than the cheaper and less accurate rapid antigen test.
How much will it cost?
The cost of a private PCR test varies from country to country. In the UK, a (non-NHS)test costs anywhere from £80 for a home kit to £300 for guaranteed same-day result. Clinics in other countries typically offer the test for significantly less.
How will this be enforced?
Arrivals will need to fill in a passenger locator form (as they already do, before arriving in the UK) and will be liable to £10,000 fines if they breach quarantine.
Will anyone be exempt?
It is thought that haulage drivers coming through ports will be exempt.
Does this apply to the whole of the UK?
Testing on arrivals is a devolved issue, so the Department for Transport will need to agree a path forward with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make it UK-wide.
Can I travel right now?
No. Due to the new national lockdown in England, and strict new lockdown measures in the devolved nations, all UK citizens are being advised to stay home and avoid non-essential travel.
Don’t I already need to get a test to travel?
No. In December Home Secretary Priti Patel wrongly said we need to take a test before travel. Only certain countries require a negative Covid-19 certificate from UK arrivals right now.
But it is something that leading figures in travel industry have been lobbying for since last summer. Heathrow Airport tweeted yesterday to reiterate its position: “We continue to request that the UK government establish a common international standard for pre-departure testing to ensure safer travel to and from all destinations.”
How long will this be the rule for?
This is uncertain, but industry insiders are calling for there to be an end in sight. Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said: “This has to be a policy that has an end point, otherwise it will put people off flying,” he said. “It has to be removed once vaccination is fully up and running.”
The Government’s new testing requirement will be unveiled in the next 48 hours. We will update this article once full details have been announced.