The UK Government will require all passengers arriving in the UK to present a negative Covid-19 test taken in the 72 hours prior to their entry into the country.

The requirement, which will be implemented starting from next week, was introduced as a result of cases soaring not only in the UK but also globally, as well as new streaks of coronavirus being identified in countries such as South Africa.

Passengers – who will risk a £500 fine if failing to comply with the new guidelines – will continue to be required to self-isolate if arriving from countries that are not on the UK Government’s travel corridor list.

“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 precaution,” commented today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “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.”

Aviation, one of the sectors that has been hit the most by the pandemic and the consequent travel restrictions, welcomed the government’s decision.

We have long been an advocate of pre-departure testing and today’s Government announcement brings us in line with many other countries and closer to having a consistent, internationally coordinated pre-departure testing regime,” said Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate.

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“When current lockdown restrictions are eased, and infection rates decrease, pre-departure testing could ultimately encourage frequent international travel to restart by eliminating the need for arriving passengers to quarantine.  It remains important however that any tests are affordable for passengers and that these arrangements are temporary and are withdrawn at the earliest opportunity when public health conditions permit. 

“We continue to ask government to announce a comprehensive support package for aviation to help us protect jobs.  It is vital that critical national infrastructure such as airports are able to thrive and provide the international connectivity required to ensure Britain remains open for trade and business as we enter the post-Brexit era.”

“Having called for the introduction of pre-departure testing since last April, we support this development which ensures passengers can continue to travel safely,” added Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye. “The Government must now prioritise the creation of a common international standard for testing that would introduce a global process to protect confidence in future travel.

Having called for testing of arrivals since the start of the pandemic, we are pleased the Government is heeding the calls from the aviation sector, and we will continue to work with them on its implementation.

“The additional restrictions will have a clear impact on the aviation sector, which has been particularly badly hit throughout the pandemic,” said a Luton Airport spokesperson. “This is why we are echoing calls for further support for the sector to protect jobs and allow the sector to play its part in the global recovery from the pandemic.”