UK to need any arrivals to have negative Covid test under 72 hours earlier, but 10 day proper quarantine mandatory after arrival
The UK government is saying that, from Thursday 14th January, all international travellers, including Britons abroad, will have to produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test result (test under 72 hours from leaving the country) to enter England and Scotland, under new restrictions. This applies to those arriving by air, or by ferry or the Channel Tunnel. Those who arrive in England and Scotland without a negative test will face £500 on-the-spot fines. The period of 72 hours was chosen rather than the (better) 48 hours, as people abroad may find it difficult to get the test results that fast. The measure does not, of course, prevent people arriving in the UK carrying Covid virus, that either was not detected in the test (some are only 50-60% accurate), but also virus infection that they were incubating at the time of the test. People will be required to isolate themselves for 10 days – “mandatory self isolation” – though there is no means to enforce it, or prevent people going to shops, on public transport etc, on their way home. Children aged under 11 and hauliers will not have to be tested. Some have called for a test on arrival in the UK too, as well as as enhanced monitoring and enforcement of the quarantine. There are fears the South African strain of Covid may not be prevented by some vaccines, and it can enter the UK (some already has) and vaccines are the only way to stop the pandemic.
This is the government website about travel and Covid
Negative Covid test needed for all international arrivals to UK
By Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent
Friday January 08 2021, The Times
All international travellers, including Britons abroad, will have to produce a negative coronavirus test result to enter England and Scotland under new restrictions.
Arrivals will have to take a test up to three days before travelling as part of the measures likely to be introduced from next Thursday. It will mirror systems used by other countries. All airlines, ferry operators and cross-Channel rail services will have to check for proof of a negative result and bar passengers without one. Those who arrive in England and Scotland without a negative test will face £500 on-the-spot fines.
The move is set to trigger a rush to return as an estimated 100,000 Britons are abroad at present, with many on holiday in Dubai, the Caribbean and the Maldives. Some could face problems getting home because of a lack of pre-flight testing facilities in some countries. One traveller in Barbados said there was “zero chance” of a test before his flight home tomorrow.
Ministers had considered a 48-hour window for pre-flight tests but ultimately opted for 72 hours because of concerns that travellers in some countries would struggle to get results in time.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that introducing the requirement for passengers to have a negative test before arrival into England and Scotland became “much more urgent” because of new coronavirus strains.
“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,” he said.
Children aged under 11 and hauliers will not have to be tested. There will also be an exemption for people travelling from “countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests”, with a list of nations to be provided over the next week. Ministers will also publish details of the type of test covered by the new requirement.
Whitehall sources said the measures would be on top of existing restrictions. These include a ten-day quarantine after arriving from “high-risk” countries, which include most of Europe. The self-isolation period can be halved with a negative test taken after five days.
Additionally, the government has banned direct flights from South Africa over the spread of a new contagious strain of the virus in the country. Yesterday it announced that the ban would be extended to 11 other countries to prevent people transiting through them to reach England. It will include the popular holiday destinations of the Seychelles and Mauritius as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.
People living in England and Scotland are also banned from travelling abroad for non-essential reasons as part of the lockdown imposed this week.
Critics claim that the system fails to go far enough, with almost no checks on arrivals. By law, all arrivals must fill out a “passenger locator form” which provides contact details and an address where they will quarantine. However, there are no tests, temperature checks or routine questioning of travellers at the border.
About 230 international flights landed at the UK’s six busiest airports on Wednesday this week including 26 from the US, which has the highest number of Covid-19 deaths.
Labour published figures this week which showed that only 3 per cent of arrivals to England and Northern Ireland from “high-risk” countries were checked by Border Force between June and September to ensure that they were complying with quarantine rules.
In a letter to the government Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said airports, ports and international rail terminals needed procedures including a “test on arrival that meets a nationally set standard”, as well as enhanced monitoring and enforcement of the quarantine.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said: “The government decision to introduce mandatory testing before UK entry has been too slow given the risk of Covid-19 variants entering the country, including the strain that emerged in South Africa. Too often, ministers have gone from one crisis to another, lacking strategy and grip.”
The airline industry acknowledged the need for restrictions but urged the government to lift them as quickly as possible. Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said: “This should be a short-term, emergency measure only and once the rollout of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery.”
John Holland-Kate, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told Today on Radio 4: “We welcome measures that are going to get this virus under control. But we have always argued for pre-departure testing as an alternative to quarantine and because we’re now going to have both this is a really belt-and-braces approach. And it can only be a temporary measure, very few people will travel with this in place.
“Now, of course, we’re locked down currently, so very few people are travelling, but we need to have a road map for how we get out of this because aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation and a lot of our supply chain and our exports go by air largely in the holds of passenger planes. And unless we can get those passenger planes moving, we are really not going to be able to get the UK economy moving as well.”
The new restrictions come as research has revealed that there were more than 1,000 introductions of coronavirus in the UK during the first wave of the pandemic. The highest number of transmission chains came from Spain, accounting for 33 per cent, followed by France on 29 per cent and Italy on 12 per cent.
Professor Oliver Pybus, co-lead author of the study, said: “By reconstructing where and when Covid-19 was introduced to the UK we can see that earlier travel and quarantine interventions could have helped to reduce the acceleration and intensity of the UK’s first wave of cases.”
Arrivals to UK must quarantine even after a negative Covid test
Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent
Saturday January 9 2021, The Times
The quarantine system for international arrivals will be imposed indefinitely despite the introduction of compulsory pre-flight tests, it was revealed yesterday.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said testing was a “useful tool in the armoury” but was “nowhere near as good” as forcing travellers from high-risk countries to self-isolate.
About 100,000 Britons overseas face a scramble to return to the UK before pre-flight testing is introduced next week. John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, warned yesterday that some would face a “real challenge” to get tested because of a lack of resources in some countries.
The government confirmed that all international travellers would need to produce a negative coronavirus test result to enter England and Scotland. Tests will have to be taken up to 72 hours before travelling and airlines, ferry companies and train operators have been instructed to ban those who fail to produce documentation. Northern Ireland confirmed it would introduce the same system and Wales is expected to follow soon.
However, the British Airline Pilots’ Association criticised the announcement, saying it created “more questions than answers”. The government has yet to finalise which day next week the new rules will come into force.
There are also doubts about the evidence passengers must provide as proof of a negative test and the list of countries that will be exempt. Ministers had said travellers from a small number of nations with a shortage of tests would not have to produce a negative result.
Airlines, airports and holiday companies have also called for pre-flight tests — or tests taken immediately on arrival — to replace quarantine.
However, the government confirmed yesterday that the test requirement would be imposed on top of quarantine. Currently, people must quarantine for ten days after arriving from “high-risk” countries, including most of Europe and the Americas. The self-isolation period can be halved with a negative test taken after five days.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today, Mr Shapps said: “A test is a useful tool in the armoury but it is nowhere near as good as quarantine and self-isolation, which is 100 per cent [effective] because it gives the virus time to both incubate and go right through so someone is no longer contagious.”
Heathrow, the UK’s biggest airport, has the capacity to test up to 25,000 people a day but Mr Holland-Kaye said many other airports did not. He said: “If you’re caught out in one of those countries, and you now have these new requirements, then you’ll find it quite difficult to get the tests that are needed in order to come back home again”.
Gloria Guevara, president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said isolation was an “unnecessary precaution”, saying it would put “yet more pressure on the embattled travel and tourism sector”. [This illustrates just how entirely self-serving, and irresponsible the airline and travel sector is. Frankly dangerous. Their advice should be totally ignored by sensible people, and by governments. AW comment].
What are the rules?
From next week — we don’t know what day — anyone entering England or Scotland from outside the UK or Ireland must present a negative test result. The test will have to be done up to 72 hours before departure. Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit.
Ministers had dismissed the idea because of the lack of testing infrastructure in other countries. The new virus strain in South Africa changed things.
So will this replace quarantine?
No. Anyone travelling from a high-risk country must quarantine for ten days, although they can take a test on day five and leave if it is negative.
Who has to be tested?
Almost everyone. The exemptions include under-11s, hauliers and transport crew. Arrivals from countries with poor testing capacity will be exempt; a list of states is due next week.
Why not test people at the border?
The government has dismissed this idea, saying the virus can incubate for days. This is why arrivals from high-risk countries have to quarantine for five days before a test. Temperature checks are ineffective if sufferers show no fever.
How will it be policed?
Airlines, ferry operators and the Eurostar will check for proof of a negative test and the Border Force can issue £500 fines on arrival.
Which tests count?
Official advice is due next week but RT-PCR tests, those done by the NHS, are deemed the most accurate.