To return home, get a test

By | Category: Travel news

Due to the South African strain of the pandemic, stricter regulations will be introduced.

Gatwick Airport. Before arriving at any UK airport, port or international train terminal a negative COVID test will be required

From next week all passengers coming into the UK will be required to have had a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of your arrival in the UK.

But that one single sentence is riddled with questions so dissecting it for clarity is necessary.

We don’t yet know when the rules will come in. Grant Shapps, the transport minister, suggested that Wednesday or Thursday would be when implementation would occur but we will have to wait and see.

By “all passengers” even those resident in the UK and returning here would also be affected as well as those visiting. It will apply to travellers regardless of whether it is by plane, boat, ferry, the Channel Tunnel or car. Spot checks will be in place and fines up to £500 may be issued.

The world “UK” means only England and Scotland at the moment. The jurisdiction of Shapps applies only to England but the Scottish government has said they will follow suit. Wales has closed its borders to visitors and its one international airport – Cardiff – isn’t functioning for passenger travel so, in effect, Wales is included.

Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, has said that he is in agreement with the decision taken by Westminster. However, despite the Irish government operating a ban on Britons travelling to Ireland, the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland is still in operation according to Drakeford so in some way that I have yet to fathom, people coming from Ireland into Wales don’t need a test.

I am glad I have made that clear to readers!

As to the type of test, Shapps suggested that fast tests would be acceptable and thus PCR testing could be replaced by the more easily available and quicker antigen and lateral tests.

The test will not be required by children or flight crews although in Australia, some cases have been tracked back to crews and there are some calls for the quarantining of air crews.

On top of the testing, self-quarantining for ten days is still mandatory if passengers are coming from those destinations not on the travel corridor list. The Seychelles and Mauritius were removed from that list on Thursday.

At present the announcement has to be turned into law which is why it will take until next week to come into force.

As to how long it will stay in place, who knows? Like much of this pandemic, there will be regular reviews.

Arrivals will still need to quarantine for 10 days, even with a negative test, unless they are coming from one of the limited number of countries deemed low risk on the government’s travel corridor list.

In addition, from 4am on Saturday 9 January, visitors arriving into the UK who have been in or transited through Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the previous 10 days will not be allowed into the UK and probably Ireland but the Irish government has yet to make an announcement.

British and Irish nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents arriving from those twelve countries on or after 4am on 9 January will need to self-isolate on their return.

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