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International arrivals to the UK must show negative coronavirus test result from next week

Travellers arriving into the UK from the vast majority of international destinations - including those returning to the UK - will be required to show a negative coronavirus test result from next week to help protect against new strains of coronavirus.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that from next week, inbound travellers arriving into England by boat, plane or train will have to take a Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in. Tests will have to be shown before travelling and you can be denied boarding or fined on arrival if you don't have one. 

The same rules are expected to take force from next week in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, although the devolved administrations can set their own timetables. The Welsh Government, for example, says it will follow the rules in future but points out it's not currently receiving international arrivals at present anyway.

For more details on travel during the pandemic, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

How will the rules work?

Most people can't travel abroad at the moment anyway because of lockdowns in place across the UK. But permitted travellers, such as those travelling for work purposes, will need to take a coronavirus test up to 72 hours before departure to the UK. This will apply irrespective of whether a country is on the travel corridor list.

Travellers will be required to show their negative test result before boarding, and transport operators will deny boarding if necessary. The Government says that on arrival back into the UK, Border Force will also carry out spot checks asking to see negative test results and passengers will be subject to an immediate fine of £500 without one.

The UK Government will set out further details on these new rules and the standards it requires for the tests in the coming days.

There will be a limited number of exemptions though, including for hauliers, children under 11, transport crews, and for those who travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests. Again, further details on these exemptions will be set out in the coming days.

Do I still have to quarantine on arrival into the UK?

The new rules are on top of the mandatory ten day self-isolation period for arrivals into the UK from all countries except those that the UK has a 'travel corridor' with.

However, people travelling to England only do still have the option to reduce the self-isolation period from ten to as little as five days by paying for a test through the Test to Release scheme. The scheme requires a test to be taken on or after the fifth full day since leaving a country not on the travel corridor list.

When we checked in December 2020, prices for these tests - which had to be conducted by a Government approved provider - cost between £90 and £300

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