UK makes COVID-19 tests mandatory for international travelers

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International arrivals from anywhere in the world, including India, will now be required to prove a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure for the UK, as part of new measures announced on Friday to contain the spread of new variants of coronavirus circulating internationally.

Passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of 500 pounds if they fail to comply with the new regulations on pre-departure testing.

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Starting 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 and could be denied boarding without this.

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 precautions, said UK Transport, Secretary Grant Shapps.

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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 defense helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks, he said.

Prior to departure, passengers will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to carriers, as well as fill out a passenger locator form, which was already in force.

The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant, the government said, adding that the test could be either in the form of PCR tests or lateral flow tests currently available to detect coronavirus but that further details will be laid out in the coming days.

The move is intended to further bolster existing protective measures, with self-isolation for new arrivals and travel corridors remaining critical in reducing the risk of imported cases from high-risk countries. Passengers arriving from countries, not on the government’s travel corridor list must continue to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result.

The UK remains under a nationwide lockdown since Wednesday, requiring everyone to stay at home unless traveling for a very limited set of reasons.

Permitted international travelers 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, which includes India. The government will set out further details on the standards that the tests will need to meet in the coming days and what proof passengers will need to present.

Those not on the UK’s travel corridor list will still have the option to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to as little as five days by paying for a second 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 results before boarding, and transport operators will deny boarding if necessary. And with the South African variant of the deadly virus now of major concern, anyone traveling indirectly from South Africa must self-isolate for 10 days.

The Scottish government has confirmed it will adopt similar rules to England and said this would not affect current restrictions making non-essential travel to and from Scotland illegal. Wales and Northern Ireland would follow similar control measures as they remain in lockdown.

It comes after a further 1,162 deaths were reported in the UK on Thursday the second consecutive day of more than 1,000 recorded fatalities. There were also 52,618 new cases.

At a Downing Street press conference on Thursday evening, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said nearly 1.5 million people in the country had now received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, but warned there would likely be “lumpiness and bumpiness” as the rollout continues.

He has promised hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming weeks as the Army joins in the logistics drive to assist the National Health Service (NHS) with the vaccination program.

“Let’s be clear, this is a national challenge on a scale like nothing we’ve seen before and it will require an unprecedented national effort, said Johnson.

“Of course, there will be difficulties, appointments will be changed but… the Army is working hand in glove with the NHS and local councils to set up our vaccine network and using battle preparation techniques to help us keep up the pace,” he said.

The UK PM has promised daily rolling updates on vaccination figures starting Monday as a means out of the country’s lockdown, which is expected to last until March.

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