Covid: New rules for travellers arriving in England delayed until next week

The introduction of new rules requiring travellers to have a negative coronavirus test on arrival in England have been delayed until January 18. Credit: PA

New rules requiring travellers arriving in England to have a negative coronavirus test have been delayed “to give international arrivals time to prepare”.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week announced passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to test negative for Covid up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

The restrictions were due to come into force at 4am on Friday, but have been moved to the same time on Monday.

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Shapps said: "To give international arrivals time to prepare passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure to England from MONDAY 18 JANUARY at 4am.”

Travellers will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.

New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine, while the operator who transported them will also be fined.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the delay as 'a complete mess - again'

Passengers will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results.

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said the delay showed the government's border testing plan was "slipping into utter chaos". 

"The government has lacked a comprehensive airport testing policy through this pandemic and now it is slipping into utter chaos," he said.

Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

 "Issuing statements in the middle of the night, because their proposals are unworkable, causes ever greater challenges for travellers and industry.

"This chronic failure is also putting us at risk yet again, from strains such as those that emerged in South Africa and Brazil. As ever, Ministers are too slow to act and it’s putting people at serious risk."

Travellers will have to take an internationally approved test and guidance released by the Department for Transport said they could include PCR tests, nasal and throat swab tests which take between 12 and 24 hours to return results.

Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests, which can return results in two to three hours, and lateral flow tests which generate results in less than 30 minutes are also acceptable.

Results can be produced as physical documents or by email or text, but must be in English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.

Passengers in the arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

British nationals attempting to return home who test positive must not travel and must follow the local guidance in their host country, and contact the nearest consulate if they need support.

Scotland is also set to adopt the same approach to international travellers, while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to announce their own plans for pre-arrival testing in the coming days.