To help protect the UK against new strains of coronavirus, England and Scotland will require international arrivals, including British nationals, to provide a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before travel.
The UK made the announcement because of the “great concern” caused by the discovery of the new variant of the virus in South Africa, with the government hoping the measure will provide an additional layer of safety and help to identify people who might be infectious before they enter the country.
“Pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained, as authorities are trying to “control the virus” while the vaccine rollout moves “at a pace over the coming weeks.”
The government did not specify what type of test people will be required to take, leaving it open to the passengers to decide, including allowing results from those that can be done in 20 or 30 minutes. Individuals who refuse to comply with the new restrictions will face an on the spot fine of £500. However, there will be exemptions for hauliers, children under 11, crews, those travelling from countries without testing infrastructure and arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland.
The new policy comes after the UK government temporarily suspended direct travel from South Africa to England over the outbreak of the new variant of Covid-19 and required any travellers coming indirectly from South Africa to self-isolate for 10 days.
Airlines UK Chief Executive Tim Alderslade welcomed the move as a “short-term, emergency measure only,” calling on the government to focus “on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible”, as soon as the vaccine rollout process has been sped up.
However, not all the airlines are happy with the toughening anti-coronavirus measures. Europe’s largest low-cost company Ryanair promised to cut most, if not all, flights to and from the UK and Ireland amid “draconian” Covid-19 lockdown restrictions imposed by the countries’ governments.
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