Coronavirus: UK introduces mandatory pre-travel PCR negative test rule for everyone entering the country

From this week, all travellers departing for the United Kingdom are required to present a negative PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours before they start their journey.

The new rule is applicable to all passengers, including British nationals, regardless of which country they are travelling from and how they arrive in the UK – whether on a plane, train or boat.

Compulsory testing was announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Friday, 8 January, who said “new strains of the virus developing internationally”, such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa, meant that the UK had to “take further precautions” to provide an additional layer of safety, and prevent those with the virus from travelling to Britain.

Mr Shapps said that, “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.”

Passengers must show a PCR test result before boarding. Those who fail to comply with the new regulations on pre-departure testing and arrive without a negative result certificate will be “subject to an immediate fine of £500.”

The only exemptions are children under the age of 11, for hauliers, crews, and those who travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests. Details of these and other exemptions will be set out on the GOV.UK website.

All new arrivals must also comply with other coronavirus rules.

People returning from countries not on the travel corridor list are still required to self-isolate for 10 days, even if they have a negative PCR result.

Passengers must still complete a Passenger Locator Form, and they must also observe all national and local lockdown restrictions.

Most of the UK is currently in lockdown due to a huge surge in covid-19 cases, leaving hospitals overwhelmed. More than 81,000 people have died from the coronavirus since last March.

The current wave has seen some 50,000 new cases recorded each day, with more than 32,000 people with the virus hospitalised on 7 January 2021.

The UK government is calling in the army to help with the rollout of the vaccination programme. Over 1.5 million doses have been given to date, including 333,334 doses last week.

There have been calls for stricter border controls for those entering the UK, but the government has resisted until now. The new, more contagious strain of the virus has changed thinking not just in Britain, but also abroad.

Pre-travel PCR testing also compulsory in TRNC and Turkey

Turkey also only recently introduced mandatory pre-travel PCR tests for everyone entering the country. The new measure came into force on 30 December 2020.

The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus introduced compulsory PCR testing for all new arrivals back in July 2020. With limited health facilities, the Turkish Cypriot authorities could not risk a major outbreak and opted for far stricter measures in March. To date, only ten people have died from Covid-19 deaths in the TRNC.


Image, top, of British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps giving a daily briefing to the nation on 9 May 2020