As I mentioned earlier this week, the government has now confirmed some of the details of their testing program for entry into the UK. This article will look at the details and what you need to know. I will update once we have more details.
As usual, I will give my frank opinion. So far the reaction has not been exactly positive. Everything we have done regarding travel has been after months of inaction and indecision, rendering the action pointless. This one seems particularly ill-thought out. I have always been in favour of targeted testing, following the EU risk list for medium or high-risk destinations. Very few countries have a blanket approach to arrivals. After all, is it really worthwhile testing from countries such as New Zealand or Australia that have virtually no cases? The whole point of the travel corridors was to say that they were low-risk countries!
This will be pretty much the final death blow to the travel industry. Most destinations require a test on entry from the UK, so for a family of 4 it could mean around an extra £800 on a holiday – putting holidays out of reach for most. If this is just a temporary measure they need to be clear on a review or end date. Personally, I think countries need to take a much more granular approach to entry. People that are vaccinated (yes I know theoretically you could still be a carrier), that have had COVID recently and those from countries with very low case numbers should not be forced to spend money for health “theatre”. It should, like everything in life, be risk based on where there is a real threat. PCR tests 72 hours before do not mean that someone is free of the virus. Offering testing on arrival as well would make life much easier for many travellers, and hopefully would be subsidised by the airports. Dubai offers both options and seems to have a well organised system.
Exempting countries that don’t have the infrastructure that could be rife with COVID also seems pointless while making those from countries with little COVID take the test. This will also change – Barbados for example is unable to turn tests around in 72 hours currently due to an outbreak, but normally they could. This could mean people getting stranded abroad if we don’t give other options for returning UK citizens. Plus you still have to isolate for 10 days from non-travel corridor countries anyway.
As usual, despite having had the last 9 months to have a strategy, they have not announced when exactly it will start or what the required standard of testing should be. We just know it will be next week! Hopefully, they will give people notice as getting a test abroad at the moment is difficult in many places.
What are the rules?
Passengers arriving from all international destinations from some point next week (It will not apply to arrivals from the Republic of Ireland) will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England. From next week inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in, to help protect against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.
Passengers arriving from countries not on the government’s travel corridor list must still self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result to provide further robust protection from those travelling from high-risk countries.
Prior to departure passengers will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to carriers, as well as their passenger locator form. The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant.
Permitted travellers will need to take their test up to 72 hours before departure, and this will apply irrespective of whether a country is on the travel corridor list. The government will set out the standards that these tests will need to meet and what proof passengers will need to present. The Transpoort Secertary, Mr Shapps, has confirmed that lateral flow tests and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) tests will be allowed, in addition to the NHS-standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This is good news as results are faster and they are often cheaper.
Passengers arriving into England who have successfully demonstrated a negative result prior to departure from a country not on the travel corridor list will still have the option to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to as little as 5 days by paying for a test through the Test to Release scheme. The scheme requires a test to be taken on or after the fifth full day since leaving a country not on the travel corridor list.
Passengers will be required to show their negative test result before boarding, and transport operators will deny boarding if necessary. On arrival back into the UK, Border Force will check passengers test results through the current spot check regime, to ensure that individuals are compliant with the new rules, and passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500.
There will be a limited number of exemptions, including for hauliers, children under 11, crews, and for those who travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests. As yet we do not know what the criteria for deciding this will be or which countries will be exempt. Further exemptions will be set out on GOV.UK.
All travellers will still be required to complete a passenger locator form before arrival into England. Those who fail to complete a passenger locator form will be subject to an increased fine of £500.