Covid: All travellers arriving to UK to be tested twice during self-isolation

Matt Hancock outlines new quarantine rules for travellers into the UK

The government is set to announce all passengers arriving into the UK must undergo a Covid test on the second and the eighth day of self-isolation after they arrive.

The new rules, expected to come into force from 15 February, will not just apply to those arriving from "red zone" countries heading into hotel quarantine, but those self-isolating at home too.

All travellers - whether isolating at home or in a hotel - will be required to pay for their own tests.

ITV News understands that travellers arriving from "red zone" countries will need to book their quarantine hotel, transfer and test as a package through an online booking system.

Credit: PA

The announcement comes as part of the government’s broader package of measures to quarantine arrivals.

Many will ask why mandatory testing was not introduced more than a year ago, when the virus first arrived in the UK - and if No 10 is so concerned about variants, why not ban all arrivals?

On the flip side the airline industry worries this will be the final nail in the coffin.

One source suggests that short-haul flights will all but end.

Credit: PA

"Demand will be nil. I wouldn’t be surprised if EasyJet grounded its fleet," one source said.A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Throughout the pandemic, the government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, that has led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.  

"It is important the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives.

"Enhancing our testing regime to cover all arrivals while they isolate will provide a further level of protection and enable us to better track any new cases which might be brought into the country, and give us even more opportunities to detect new variants. 

"Further details of our mandatory quarantine and enhanced testing regime will be set out soon."

Reacting to our story, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds accused No 10 of "lurching from one crisis to another".

"Yet again the UK government is lurching from one crisis to another, with no consistent strategy to secure our borders against Covid variants," he wrote."21,000 people are entering the country every day - we need a comprehensive hotel quarantine system urgently."

While Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper questioned why the government is not testing arrivals before they travel home.

So, to be clear - here's what's in place:1. All arrivals must have a negative Covid test within past 72 hours taken abroad. They must also test for Covid here on days two and eight of their self-isolation. 2. Those coming from red zone countries must do the above but quarantine in hotels which they cannot leave.

A fence surrounds the Holiday Inn hotel near Heathrow Airport, which has been reserved for people arriving from abroad to self-isolate. Credit: PA

Officially the government is still not confirming the exact timing of the quarantine announcement.

Airline and hotel industries are expecting details on Tuesday, but it's possible it may slip beyond then.

The DHSC simply said the announcement will come "shortly".