This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Passengers arriving on flights to the UK will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid test taken up to 72 hours before departure time. The measure, which was announced on January 8, will go into force at some point next week, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps.
Pilots are exempt from the requirement, which also applies to all international arrivals into the country by train or ship. The announcement covered arrivals to airports in England, but the Scottish government has introduced an identical requirement, and authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit.
Even with proof of a negative test result, arriving passengers from countries except those on the UK’s limited (and ever-changing) "travel corridor" list of countries will still be required to self-isolate at a fixed address for 10 days. There is an option to shorten this period by paying to have another test done after five days.
Following the January 6 imposition of tougher lockdown rules in the UK, all non-essential travel is prohibited. In an effort to control the spread of new strains of the Coronavirus, the UK has also banned all arrivals from multiple southern African countries.
The introduction of a test requirement for arriving passengers has been demanded by health experts since the early stages of the pandemic. The Department of Transport has been accused of being slow to introduce an adequate provision for testing departing passengers and knowing the Covid status of those arriving.
The UK’s Board of Airline Representatives said it welcomed the new testing requirements provided they are only used as a temporary measure. “It is vital that the lockdown period is utilized to develop a well-coordinated path towards easing travel restrictions at the earliest opportunity once the threat recedes, in particular, the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days after arrival in the UK and to review the ‘Test and Release’ option after 5 days,” said the group’s chief executive Dale Keller.