Travelers arriving in the UK from international destinations will need to present a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in Britain to protect against new strains of coronavirus, the government said.
There will be fines for anyone who doesn’t get tests within 72 hours of travel, and airlines and travel firms will be obliged to check and turn back anyone without one, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
The rule will be imposed next week, a move which will give an estimated 100,000 Britons abroad the chance to get home.
Hundreds of thousands of Romanians living in the UK may be affected by the rules, after some remain stranded in Romania over the holidays after a two-week flight ban to the UK was imposed after a new mutant strain of the virus appeared in Britain. Tests are relatively easy to do in Romania.
Anyone arriving plane, ferry or train to the UK will have to take a test up to than 72 hours before departing the country they are in, to keep out mutant strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.
Many countries, including France, Italy and Greece already require travelers to present a negative Covid test when they arrive.
Britain has been struggling to contain the virus in recent weeks and imposed a new national lockdown on Jan. 6 meaning everyone must stay at home unless they need to be out for a very limited set of reasons, including for work.
“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,” the minister said in a statement released by the British embassy in Bucharest.
On Thursday, Britain recorded 52,618 new Covid-19 cases and 1,162 deaths.
The new rule is bound to create problems for the travel and aviation industry which have been hard-hit by the pandemic,
Every traveler coming into UK ports or airports should have a pre-flight negative test to enter or will face a £500 on-the-spot fine. It is not clear whether they will then forced into quarantine.
Hauliers, children under 11, crews and for those who traveling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests will be exempt from the new rules.
It said the measure would “provide an additional layer of safety from imported cases of coronavirus on top of the mandatory 10 day quarantine for arrivals, helping identify people who may currently be infectious and preventing them from traveling to England.”