All passengers arriving in the U.K. will be required to prove they do not have coronavirus, showing a negative test result taken within 72 hours of the start of their journey.
Under new rules announced by the British government, anyone failing to produce the evidence of a negative test will be hit with an immediate fine of 500 pounds ($678). Travelers arriving from countries that are not on the government’s open travel corridor list will be required to isolate at home for 10 days, regardless of their test results.
The measures, set out by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, will come into force next week for passengers arriving at a British port by plane, boat or train. The plan is aimed at stopping new strains of Covid-19 coming into the U.K., such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa, the government 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,” Shapps said in an emailed statement. “Pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defense — helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”
Ministers were criticized for taking too long to impose border restrictions during the first wave of the pandemic last spring. This week British authorities put the country into its third national lockdown as infection rates soared. The death toll from coronavirus now stands at more than 78,000.
Officials have been in talks for several days on how to coordinate a border policy across all four nations of the U.K., which have control over their own transport policies. In a separate statement, the Scottish government has agreed to the plan and said the measures will be brought in as soon as possible.
Passengers will need to show their negative test results before boarding and will be stopped if necessary. There will be some exemptions from the new rules, including for hauliers, children under the age of 11, and for travelers leaving countries without an adequate testing infrastructure in place.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his blueprint for a mass vaccination program to protect about 15 million elderly and vulnerable people people across the U.K., and their carers, by a self-imposed deadline of Feb. 15. After that, the government will look at whether to begin lifting some of the lockdown rules.