Private Covid testing and £500 fines: everything you need to know about the new UK travel rules

Laura Hampson
·3 min read
A negative Covid test is now mandatory for all incoming travellers to the UK (Getty)
A negative Covid test is now mandatory for all incoming travellers to the UK (Getty)

Incoming travellers to England, Scotland and Wales will now have to present a negative Covid test result before boarding a flight or hopping on a train.

The new rules, which came into effect from 4am Monday, January 18, state that anyone wishing to travel to the UK will need to provide a negative result from a test taken no more than 72 hours beforehand.

Northern Ireland will follow suit from Thursday.

Read more: ‘Vaccine confidence’ sees spike in over-50s booking holidays

What are the new rules for Covid testing?

Anyone travelling to the UK will now have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before setting off - whether that’s by air, land or sea.

The UK government has said it will accept tests with at least 97% specificity and 80% sensitivity.

This can include PCR tests or lateral flow and Lamp tests which can give results in an hour.

What happens if you don’t get a test?

Border officials carrying out spot checks can fine a minimum of £500 to those who don’t comply.

Watch: What is long COVID?

What if the country I’m in doesn’t offer tests?

If you happen to be abroad and need a test to get back, most countries will offer private tests that you will need to pay for.

What happens if I test positive?

You won’t be allowed on the flight (or mode of transport you’re using to get back to the UK). You also might have to self-isolate for two weeks in the country where you plan to board the flight.

Is anyone exempt from testing?

Yes. Children under the age of 11 don’t need to provide a test.

Travellers from St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda are also exempt until January 21 while those from Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Falkland Islands, Ascension Islands and St Helena are also exempt.

Read more: This is the world’s safest airline for 2021

Will UK residents returning from abroad be exempt?

No. Everyone (bar those travelling from the countries listed above) will need to present a negative Covid test before travelling.

How long will this testing-before-flying scheme be in place?

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said the new scheme is “under constant review” and that it will operate for “as long as it is deemed necessary”.

At the moment it looks like it will be in operation until at least the end of this third lockdown. Under lockdown rules we are currently not allowed to travel abroad or domestically for any holidays, and fines between £100 to £6,400 could be given to any who do.

All UK travel corridors have now been scrapped, including the Maldives (Getty)
All UK travel corridors have now been scrapped, including the Maldives (Getty)

I’ve tested negative, will I still have to quarantine when I’m back in the UK?

Yes, a negative test result only allows you back into the UK. Once you have returned to the UK you will still have to self-isolate for 10 days.

What are the new quarantine rules?

As of 4am Monday, January 18, the UK has suspended all of its travel corridors.

This means that all passengers arriving in England must complete a passenger locator form on arrival and subsequently self-isolate for 10 days.

Read more: Experts reveal the best time to book your 2021 holiday (and where to go)

Is anyone banned from entering the UK?

The new South African Covid strain means that anyone who has been in South Africa, as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mauritius and the Seychelles are banned from entering the UK.

The only people allowed into the UK from these countries are UK residents and they will have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

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