UK Testing regime to come in from Friday 15 Jan but still lacking details
After months of dithering, at a time when we can’t really travel anyway, the government last week announced that testing for entry to the UK would be brought in. I am fully in support of anything that makes travel safer and allows it to restart. However, leaving it until this point to announce the start date, is quite frankly unacceptable. Many people are going to be in serious trouble of being stranded abroad with only a very limited window to get their tests booked and the results back in time. Given most places need at least 72 hours to turn around a test, that would mean anyone due to return on Friday is now in a race against time. Why they did not announce a start date initially I have no idea.
They also have still failed to confirm exactly what tests are acceptable or proof/information is needed. How they expect anyone to make the Friday deadline without this information I have no idea. It is now
When does it start and who does it apply to?
All those due to arrive in the UK after 4am on Friday by air, sea or rail will have to present evidence of a negative test result. This includes travel corridor countries. Tests must be taken up to a maximum of 72 hours prior to departure.
The new measures also are in addition to quarantine rather than replacing it, with all arrivals – including those arriving from travel corridor destinations – required to test negative before departure.
What type of test do I need?
Despite the fact that it starts in 4 days, the only guidance available is “This will include that the test must be of a diagnostic-standard test such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and could in some cases include LAMP and lateral flow tests within set limits. ” but the government has said “we will provide clear guidance and advice to passengers regarding testing standards and capacity.” As yet we are still waiting with less than 72 hours to go! If you get a PCR test you are probably going to be fine. Usually, most countries require at least the date and often also the time on the test results. Some also want a passport number. I would just get as much information on the test result as you can until we find out the details.
What happens if I test positive?
If you test positive for COVID-19 while abroad, you should not travel and should follow the local relevant guidance on self-isolation. This presents an issue for those that continue to test positive even weeks after they were infectious. In this case, I would suggest contacting the local consulate.
How will it be enforced?
Airlines Transport operators will be required to check that a passenger has proof of a negative test result before they board their flight, train or ferry. It is highly likely that without proof you will be denied boarding. Border Force will also conduct further checks upon arrival.
If a passenger arrives in England without a pre-departure negative test result they will be fined £500 and the carrier will also be fined.
Which countries are exempt?
Passengers travelling to England from the Common Travel Area (the United Kingdom, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey), will be exempt.
Arrivals from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Lucia will have an additional exemption until 21 January, 0400 GMT. This is due to current local infrastructure challenges (e.g. covid testing capacity, heightened demand for tests). Following the end of the extension, arrivals from these locations will also be required to comply in full with the new requirements.
Three overseas territories – St Helena, Ascension Island, and the Falklands are completely exempt.
How long will these measures be in place?
The good news is that these measures are only at present “likely to be in place until the end of the current lockdown, although a review will take place before the end of that period.” So there is some hope for the travel industry. The main issue with testing is that the cost is incredibly high in most places, putting travel out of reach financially for most people. Many international airports have started to offer testing, but not everywhere.