LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Britain’s government will require people entering England to present a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival starting next week to protect against new strains of the coronavirus from other countries, the government said on Friday.
Passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing for England, the transport ministry said, mirroring measures taken by many other countries around the world.
“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,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a new lockdown for England this week after a surge in cases linked to a new variant of the coronavirus believed to have originated in the country.
On Thursday, Britain said it would extend a ban on travellers entering England from South Africa to other southern African countries to prevent the spread of a variant identified in South Africa.
Exemptions to the new testing requirement rule would be offered to hauliers, children under 11, crews and people travelling from countries where tests are not available, the government said.
Passengers will be subject to a fine of 500 pounds ($678.30) if they fail to comply with the new regulations. Britain’s airline industry said it recognised the need to act to introduce pre-departure testing but only as a short-term, emergency measure.
“Once the roll-out 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,” Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, an industry group, said.
Britain requires passengers from many countries to self-isolate for 10 days, or five if they pay for a private test and test negative. Those requirements will remain in place after the new pre-departure testing rule comes into effect.
Britain’s government was working with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to roll out similar measures.
The new rule would not apply to the Common Travel Area which includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
($1 = 0.7371 pounds) (Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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