LONDON: All travellers entering the UK will be required to take two coronavirus tests while quarantining in an attempt to prevent variants entering the country. According to a BBC report, arrivals will be required to get a test on days two and eight of their 10-day quarantine period, whether they are isolating at home or in a hotel.
The Department of Health said the move would enable authorities to track new cases more effectively.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out more details in the Commons later.
It is in addition to the current rules which require travellers arriving in the UK – whether by boat, train or plane – to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry.
This test must be taken in the 72 hours before travelling, and anyone arriving without one faces a fine of up to £500, with Border Force officials carrying out spot checks.
Travellers must provide contact details and their UK address. They can then travel – by public transport if necessary – to the place where they plan to self-isolate.
The new testing policy comes amid concern about new variants entering the country that are more resistant to existing vaccines.
Early trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine suggest it offers “minimal protection” against mild disease from the South Africa variant. There have been 147 cases of the variant have found in the UK.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the results were “expected” because the virus is “introducing mutations… to allow it to still transmit in populations where there’s some immunity.”
“As long as we have enough immunity to prevent severe disease, hospitalisations and death, then we’re going to be fine in the future in the pandemic,” he said.
From 15 February, UK residents and Irish nationals arriving from certain countries will have to quarantine in hotels.
Passengers will have to stay in their rooms for 10 nights, with security guards accompanying if they go outside.
The rules will apply to UK nationals and residents arriving from 33 “red list” Covid-19 hotspots – mostly in South America and Africa – where it’s feared Covid variants may have already spread. Passengers will be expected to pay for the cost of the accommodation.
Non-UK travellers who have been in these countries in the 10 days before travelling are banned from entry. All travellers – including British nationals – must self-isolate for 10 days when they get to the UK.
The “test to release scheme” – where travellers from non-red list countries can leave home isolation after a negative test on day five – will remain under the new testing rules. Passengers will be expected to use the gold-standard and more expensive PCR tests.