Britons may be stranded abroad as ministers say travellers will be banned from entering the UK without proof they are clear of coronavirus within days.
Passengers will be banned from entering the UK next week if they do not have a negative test within 72 hours of departure.
But there are concerns in the travel industry some will be stuck on holiday because many destinations – such as Barbados – do not have testing facilities.
It is expected to cause a scramble for return flights as around 100,000 Brits are currently away in hotspots such as Dubai and the Maldives.
Ministers agreed the strict measures last night amid growing pressure to tighten borders.
They will apply to Britons and foreign nationals in a bid to keep out infections and mutant strains such as the one in South Africa. The curbs could come in next week.
Travellers will be banned from entering the UK next week if they do not have a negative test within 72 hours of departure. Pictured: Heathrow
There are concerns in the travel industry some will be stuck on holiday because many destinations – such as Barbados – do not have facilities for carrying out tests. Pictured: A man being tested at Heathrow
It is expected to cause a scramble for return flights as around 100,000 Brits are currently away in hotspots such as Dubai and the Maldives. Pictured: Heathrow last month
Every traveller coming into UK ports or airports should have a pre-flight negative test to enter or will face a £500 on-the-spot fine.
Airlines and other carriers should bar people from travelling without them but Border Force guards will carry out spot checks on arrivals.
It was unclear last night whether PCR tests will be demanded in all circumstances or if rapid ‘lateral flow’ tests, considered less accurate, might also be accepted.
However, the travel industry raised fears some Britons could be stranded as countries such as Barbados do not have the resources.
One holidaymaker on the Caribbean island told the Times there was ‘zero chance’ they could be tested before their flight to the UK tomorrow.
Ministers agreed the strict measures last night amid growing pressure to tighten borders (file image)
The new rules mean travellers will have to quarantine for ten days – even if they test negative – if arriving from a ‘red list’ country with high rates of Covid-19.
But they will be able to leave isolation if a second test, which can be taken from the fifth day, is negative.
All travellers will require a ‘passenger locator form’ and face a £500 fine if they fail to comply.
Children under 11 will be exempt as will hauliers.
Some people will also dodge the new rules if they are coming from ‘countries without the infrastructure available to deliver the tests’.
The new rules mean travellers will have to quarantine for ten days – even if they test negative – if arriving from a ‘red list’ country with high rates of Covid-19. Pictured, passengers arriving in New York on a flight from London
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘With new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.
‘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.’
Britain’s airline industry said it recognised the need to act to introduce pre-departure testing but only as a short-term, emergency measure.
Chief Executive of Airlines UK Tim Alderslade said: ‘Once the roll-out of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery.’
The government was working with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to roll out similar measures.
The new rule would not apply to the Common Travel Area which includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
It comes after ministers extended the travel ban on arrivals from South Africa to its neighbouring countries to keep out the new strain.
It affects Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, plus the Seychelles and Mauritius.
The ban comes into effect from tomorrow at 4am.
The Department for Transport said the move was in response to data showing a steep rise in cases of the new variant in the region.
Last night Israel was also removed from the ‘safe’ list.
Lockdown restrictions which came into force on Wednesday mean holidays are banned.
All passengers arriving from countries not on the government’s travel corridor list will still be required to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of their Covid test result.
Scotland, which has devolved powers over transport policy, announced on Thursday travellers from Israel and Jerusalem, Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles were being removed from its travel corridor list and passengers arriving from those countries would still be required to self-isolate for 10 days.
Around 230 planes hit the tarmac at Britain’s six busiest airports on Wednesday, with 26 coming from the US which is being battered by the virus.