The Speaker
Saturday, 20 April 2024 – 21:43

What are the new Coronavirus rules on international arrivals to the UK?

⚠ Following recent announcements, parts of this article are now out of date. Click here for an updated version.


New rules are being brought in this week that will mean international travellers will need to show a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed into the UK.

The new rules come as the UK is currently facing record levels of Coronavirus cases and deaths from the deadly virus. This weekend, the UK surpassed 80,000 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive Coronavirus test, while over 3 million people have tested positive for the virus in the UK since the start of the pandemic.

The new rules announced for UK arrivals are designed to tackle the spread of new Coronavirus variants, some of which may make the spread of COVID-19 easier. The new variant of COVID-19 in the UK is thought to be about 70% more transmissible than the previous variant, making it easier to spread, while there are also significant fears over the new South African variant of COVID-19 which is also highly transmissible.

Here’s a look at the new rules for international travellers who want to arrive in the UK…


Key Points: New Rules for UK arrivals

  • All passengers arriving in the UK will be required to prove they do not have Coronavirus.
  • In order to do this, passengers must show a negative test result, from a Coronavirus test they took within 72 hours of the start of their journey.
  • Anyone who fails to provide evidence that they don’t have COVID-19 could be fined £500.
  • Travellers with a negative Coronavirus test who have travelled from a country on the Government’s travel corridor list will then be allowed to enter the UK as normal – they will not have to self isolate (though all UK nations are currently in stay at home lockdowns).
  • All other travellers that have arrived from a country not on the travel corridors list must self isolate at home for 10 days, regardless of their test results. Arrivals to England that fall into this category will still have the option to reduce their self-isolation period from 10 to potentially 5 days by paying for a new test through the country’s Test to Release scheme.


Example: If a traveller arrives to the UK from Finland, as an example of a country on the travel corridors list, with a negative Coronavirus test, they will need to show this to UK Border officials but will not need to self-isolate. If a traveller arrived to the UK from the United States, as an example of a country not on the travel corridors list, the traveller would still need to show UK Border officials a negative Coronavirus test result, but would still have to self-isolate.

There will also be additional restrictions due to the new South African COVID variant, with entry to the UK banned to those who have travelled from or through any country in southern Africa in the previous 10 day period.

The policy is expected to be effective throughout the four nations of the UK. The policy will apply to arrivals to the UK by boat, train or plane.


Are there any exemptions to the rules?

Yes, there are some exemptions to the new rules.

Children under the age of 11 will not be required to show a negative Coronavirus test, nor will hauliers or travellers arriving from a number of countries without easy access to Coronavirus testing.


What has been said about the new rules?

The new rules are similar to those that have already taken effect in other European countries. The Government has been criticised by many opposition MPs and also members of the public for not bringing in travel restrictions sooner, with many feeling that continued international arrivals during the current lockdown could be contributing to the spread of COVID cases.

Strict travel restrictions have been in place in some parts of the world since the start of the pandemic. Notably, New Zealand, which has done particularly well in tackling the virus, has its border closed to almost all arrivals.

Speaking about the new rules, the UK Government’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “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.”

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that the new mandatory COVID-19 testing rules for UK arrivals are a “necessary step” but said “Labour have been calling for a comprehensive strategy on testing for international travel since April. Instead the Government has been lurching from one crisis to another”.

The new rules have been met with concern from the aviation and travel industries, which have already been hit particularly badly by the Coronavirus pandemic.

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