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Mandatory pre-departure COVID test required from 0400 GMT on 21 January for arrivals into England

The UK Government has confirmed that mandatory pre-departure testing for all inbound passengers to England will come into force from Friday 15 January 2021, as an added measure to safeguard public health against coronavirus and its variants.

A limited exemption has been granted until Thursday 21 January, 0400 GMT, to help Britons in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Lucia return home. This decision reflects current infrastructure challenges in these countries, including limited COVID- 19 testing capacity and heightened demand for tests.

Persons arriving into England from these three islands from 0400 GMT on 21 January onward will be required to comply in full with the new requirements. Visitors are strongly encouraged to use this time to review and clarify their plans for return to England, including considering options to revise flight departures and – if necessary – put in place suitable arrangements for qualifying pre-departure tests.

In preparation for travel, passengers will need to find a testing provider which meets the standards set out on by the UK Government, the majority of which will be Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. Full details of requirements can be found at www.gov.uk.

Prior to departure, passengers will be required to present proof of a negative COVID- 19 test result taken no more than three days before departing to transport operators, as well as their passenger locator form. Carriers may deny boarding to those who do not have a negative test result.

The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England. Passengers who arrive at the border without proof of a negative result will be subject to an immediate £500 fine.  For people arriving from countries not on the Travel Corridor list, they will still be required to complete a mandatory self-isolation period, and the Travel Corridors list is regularly reviewed to manage the risk of imported cases of COVID-19 from high-risk countries.

Passengers still have the option to reduce their self-isolation period as part of the Test to Release scheme launched last month, unless they have been in South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia or Zimbabwe in the 10 days prior to their arrival in England.

The current advice for persons in the UK remains that they must stay at home and not travel abroad unless it is for a permitted exempt reason.

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