Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that from ‘next week’ passengers travelling from all international destinations will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England.
However, the Department for Transport (DfT) said the Government ‘will set out the standards that these tests will need to meet and what proof passengers will need to present’, meaning that passengers do not currently know details of when the new rule comes into force or what it requires.
Mr Shapps told the BBC that the requirement would be UK-wide. On Friday morning the Scottish Government said the same requirement would be introduced in Scotland 'as soon as practically possible'.
The DfT said the move was ‘to help protect against new strains of coronavirus circulating internationally’, such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.
Inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test ‘up to’ 72 hours before departing the country they are in.
Mr Shapps said: ‘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.
‘Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence - helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.’
Prior to departure passengers will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to carriers, as well as their passenger locator form.
The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant.
The DfT stressed that the requirement applies irrespective of whether the country from which travellers are arriving is on its so-called ‘travel corridor’ list.
Passengers arriving into England who have successfully demonstrated a negative result prior to departure from a country not on the travel corridor list will still have the option to reduce the self-isolation period from 10 to as little as 5 days by paying for a test through the Test to Release scheme.
Scottish Government transport secretary Michael Matheson said: 'Travel into or out of Scotland is currently illegal and that will remain the case while we work to suppress the new strain of COVID-19.
'It is important to emphasise that this additional measure does not remove the requirement for all passengers arriving from countries not on the quarantine exemption list to self-isolate for ten days, even with a negative test.'