Travellers to be let into England without being tested 'to give more time'

International travellers will be allowed into England without a Covid test this weekend after a new rule requiring a negative result before entry was delayed.

The Government announced last week passengers travelling by boat, train or plane would need to take a test 72 hours before leaving their country of departure. Ministers confirmed on Monday the new restriction would come into force from 4am on Friday.

The new rule has now been pushed back to Monday ‘to give international arrivals time to prepare’ – a decision that has left travellers who rushed to buy tests fuming.

In an 11pm tweet, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘To give international arrivals time to prepare passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure to England from MONDAY 18 JANUARY at 4am.’

‘We’ve published guidance on http://GOV.UK outlining the details of the type of test passengers should book and when they should take them, so they can get back into England smoothly and safely.’

The announcement came after airlines criticised the Government for announcing the new rule with a lack of clarity over which types of tests would be accepted – but the hold-up has spurred further chaos for passengers who paid hundreds of pounds to get tests in time for Friday.

A Twitter user named Craig commented on Mr Shapps’ post saying: ‘Great, so I spend $200 and a good part of yesterday scrambling to get a test in time for my daughter who lands in the UK 10am Friday, which she now doesn’t need. How do we get refunded for your P*** Poor Planning?’

A woman named Jasmine said: ‘So tests have to be taken up to 3 days before travel back to the UK, so people who thought they would need a test if returning on weekend may have had their test already & some tests are costing £200+, so that’s a waste of their hard earned money! Just unbelievable!’

The new restriction will be introduced in England almost a year after the UK reported its first Covid case last January.

Ministers had been accused of leaving ‘a substantial gap in the nation’s defences’ as they insisted the move would not help reduce soaring cases.

Covid vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed last week it would be ‘near pointless’ to test people on the border ‘because that person may be showing no symptoms’.

Proof of a negative result must be presented to the carrier upon boarding from 4am on Monday, while the UK Border Force will also conduct spot checks on arrivals. 

Failure to comply with the rules will lead to an immediate £500 fine, while the operator who transported the person will also be charged. 

Passengers arriving in England are still required to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of their test result.

The Government clarified the rules on Wednesday, saying PCR tests and nasal and throat swab tests which produce results in 12 to 24 hours will be accepted.

Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests, which can return results in two to three hours, and lateral flow tests which generate results in less than 30 minutes are also acceptable.

Results can be produced as physical documents or by email or text, but must be in English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.

British nationals who test positive must not travel and must follow the local guidance in their host country, contacting the nearest consulate if they need support.

Scotland is planning on introducing the same regulation , while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to soon announce their own plans for pre-arrival testing.

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