New pre-departure Covid test rules delayed until Monday

New rules requiring international arrivals to have proof of a pre-departure Covid test have been delayed from tomorrow (Friday) until Monday.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps gave the update via Twitter last night.

He 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.

“We’ve published guidance on GOV.UK outlining the details of the type of test passengers should book and when they should take them, so they can get back into England smoothly and safely.”

Shapps added: “Passengers must remember to complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving back into England – anyone without proof of a negative test faces a £500 fine.”

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

Meanwhile, a government Covid committee is due to meet today to discuss the possibility of barring flights from Brazil as prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “concerned” about a new coronavirus variant that is believed to have emerged in the country.

Details on the pre-departure test requirements were issued by the Department for Transport, saying: “You will need to find a test provider. You must make sure that the test provider can meet the standards for pre-departure testing.

The test must:

  • meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml
  • this could include tests such as:
    • a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
    • an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device

The DoT guidance adds: “It is your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details so you must check with your test provider that it meets those standards.

“You may not be able to travel if the test does not meet these standards. It is your responsibility to ensure you get the right test that meets the above requirements.

“Where information about providers of tests is available locally, FCDO travel advice pages will be updated with this information. If you need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.

“If you take your test in the UK, ahead of a return journey of less than 3 days, you must use a private test provider. You cannot use an NHS Test and Trace test.

“Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted, and you must provide the original test result certificate.”

This must include:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
  • your date of birth or age
  • the result of the test
  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  • the name of the test provider and their contact details
  • the name of the test device

“If the test result does not include this information you may not be able to board, and may not be able to travel to England. If you arrive without a test result that includes this information, you will be committing a criminal offence and could receive a £500 fine.

“Your test result can be provided as a physical, printed document, or via email or text message, which you can show on your phone. Make sure that your device is charged,” the transport department advised.

“If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.

“If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

“It is your responsibility to make sure you have a valid test result to show when you board. You should not rely on being able to get a test in a country that you will transit through as part of your journey to England. It is possible that local or entry restrictions will mean you are not able to get a test.

“If you don’t have a test result because you were unable to get one in a country you transited through, and you are not permitted to enter the transit country, you will be allowed to board your transport to England.

“But you could be fined £500 on arrival in England for not having a valid test result.”

Inbound travellers do not need to take a test for a limited time until 4am on January 21 if they began journeys to from Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia or Barbados.

The rules also do not apply for those arriving from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey, Ascension, Falkland Islands and St Helena.

The DoT adds: “Even though you have provided a negative test for entering the country, you must follow the rules for self-isolating when you arrive in England.

“If you have been somewhere that is not on the travel corridors list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you will need to self-isolate, regardless of your pre-departure test result.

“You may opt into the Test to Release for International Travel scheme to shorten your self-isolation period.

“The scheme is not available to anyone who has been in or through South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the 10 days before arrival in England.

“This list is kept regularly under review and therefore is subject to change. Travellers should continue to check the guidance for the latest details.”

Workers exempt from taking a test are:

  • border and customs officials
  • channel tunnel system workers
  • defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • hauliers
  • air, maritime and rail crew
  • civil aviation inspectors
  • people transporting human cells and blood products
  • seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • specialist technical workers doing emergency works

Also, in limited circumstances:

  • foreign government officials
  • UK government officials conducting essential state business, essential government work or essential policing


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