Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Government had taken the difficult but necessary decision to introduce a new national lockdown.
Globally and nationally, we are seeing significant increases in coronavirus levels, including the emergence of worrying new strains. It is therefore imperative that we make sure we do all we can to protect travel, reduce the risk of imported infections, including those from new variants, and protect our NHS during the nationwide lockdown and vaccinations.
We already have strong safeguards in place, including a mandatory 10-day self-isolation requirement for the vast majority of arrivals, and our travel corridor system remains critical to managing the risk of imported cases from countries to high risk. We also successfully launched the Release Test Program last month, which offers passengers the opportunity to reduce self-isolation, by self-isolating for five days after leaving a destination not on the corridor list. travel, then passing a test. Pre-departure testing does not remove the public health need for international arrivals from non-exempt countries to self-isolate for 10 days or opt for a release test.
However, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases around the world, including the emergence of new variants, we are now taking additional steps to add an extra layer of protection to protect public health. Starting at 04:00 am on January 15th, we will be introducing pre-departure testing requirements for all arriving passengers in England. Passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will be required to take a test up to 3 days before departure and provide proof of a negative result before traveling.
This will be an additional requirement that applies to all passengers, including those traveling from a travel corridor country, other than those on a very short list of exemptions. This additional layer of protection is in addition to existing self-insulation requirements.
We will establish the standards that the tests must meet in the regulations. This will understand that the test should be a standard diagnostic test such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and could in some cases include LAMP and lateral flow tests within limits. We will provide clear guidance and advice to passengers regarding testing standards and capacity.
Guidance will be made available to passengers and carriers on what to look for to ensure tests and results provided meet required standards.
We will continue to review test standards and innovative test technologies.
In addition, we will also present the information passengers will need to have with them at check-in and at the UK border to show they have tested negative. This will include the defined data fields that the test result certificates should include. All information on testing requirements will be made available to passengers and transport operators through guidance on gov.uk.
The current advice for those across the UK remains that you should stay at home and not travel abroad except for an authorized exemption reason. The requirements also apply to visitors from other states and UK nationals, and carriers can deny boarding if passengers do not pass a negative qualification test. British nationals in need of consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.
If UK nationals test positive for Covid-19 abroad, they should not travel and should follow relevant local guidelines on self-isolation. Carriers will be required to verify that a passenger has proof of a negative test result before boarding their flight, train or ferry, and may deny boarding where appropriate to reduce the number of non-compliant people. arriving in England. Border Force will also carry out additional checks on arrival.
If a passenger arrives in England without a negative result before departure, he will be fined. We will be amending the International Travel Regulations so that fines, starting from £ 500, can be imposed on non-compliant passengers. Operators will also be fined for transporting non-compliant passengers.
Passengers traveling to England from the common travel area (UK, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey) will not be covered by the regulation.
Children under 11 will also not be required to take a test before departure.
There will be a very limited number of exemptions, including carriers to allow free movement of cargo and air crew, international rail and sea.
Some limited reasonable excuses for not being tested will also be allowed, for example the lack of testing infrastructure in the country of departure. This will apply to three overseas territories – Saint Helena, Ascension Island and the Falklands.
Arrivals from three additional countries will be considered as having a reasonable excuse not to comply due to lack of testing infrastructure. However, for these countries, this will only apply for a specific window limited in time. This includes:
- Antigua and Barbuda – until Thursday, January 21 at 4:00 a.m.
- Saint Lucia – until Thursday January 21 04:00
- Barbados – until Thursday January 21 04:00
If passengers arrive from any of the above three countries after the limited period has ended, they will need to meet all pre-departure testing requirements.
Further details on exemptions and reasonable excuses will be set out in regulations and guidance. We will regularly review exemptions and reasonable excuses.
We will provide detailed guidance to passengers and carriers to support the implementation of these changes.
Measures will likely be in place until the end of the current lockdown, although a review will take place before this period ends.
The government recognizes the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, both for individuals and businesses.
We have worked closely with the international travel industry during the pandemic and will continue to do so as we emerge from lockdown and can encourage people to travel with confidence again. We also continue to implement the recommendations set out in the report of the Global Travel Working Group to support the safe recovery of international travel.
Giving a safe and effective vaccine is also the best way to protect the most vulnerable, save thousands of lives, and support the lifting of many restrictions and the return to international travel. We are already making great strides, including now vaccinating more people than the rest of Europe combined.
Our priority now must be to protect public health and the NHS. With the addition of pre-departure testing requirements, our already robust system of protection against imported cases of coronavirus is further strengthened and will provide the greatest overall protection against the risk of transmission during travel to England and after arrival. .