double decker buses on a street in front of a large building
Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

Thinking about visiting the United Kingdom? You’ll soon need a negative covid-19 test in advance of travel, as the country aims to battle what’s hoped to be the final waves of covid-19 infection, as vaccines roll in. They can’t come soon enough.

The UK, including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is always a worthy and incredible trip, but with a national lockdown and pending details on new travel restrictions, here’s what you need to know about current and future travel plans.

UK Government Finalizes Pre-Travel Testing Requirement

After months of unanswered calls from airlines and travel industry leaders, seeking to to convince the UK Government to initiate pre-flight covid-19 testing as an added layer of safety, UK officials are now rapidly moving to add a covid-19 testing requirement for all inbound visitors. 10 days of self isolation will still be required, or 5 with a negative covid-19 test result.

The requirement will begin from next week, and fines of up to £500 will be levied against those without a negative result, but no indication is given that entry would be denied, and £500 for an international traveler may not be life changing enough.

The news comes as England and the UK is officially in the midst a third national lockdown, and one with more rigorous measures than the last. Most of Asia, and many tourist centric destinations initiated this pre-travel requirement to temporarily reduce virus risks 10 months ago, in many cases overnight.

Destinations around the globe, including Dubai, Hawaii, The Maldives and Barbados made the move to strict pre-flight testing months ago, as a means to limit covid-19 risks from inbound travelers. For the most part, the moves have been successful in avoiding significant new waves of infection in each destination, compared to others.

Pre-flight travel testing isn’t a ‘silver bullet’, but is expected to mitigate spread to the extent that only circa 1:1000 travelers could test negative within 72 hours of departure, and still import the virus, a figure that’s been backed up by real world data. The data, like most things in the world, remains disputed.

double decker buses on a street in front of a large building
Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

Current UK Travel Entry Restrictions

The UK has been one of the least “locked down” countries throughout the ongoing global pandemic, with no notable entry restrictions to date.

Even as countries shuttered during the initial outbreak, the UK remained open to all who were eligible before All inbound visitors and returning nationals were expected to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, but recently relaxed laws shortened travel advice to 10 days of quarantine, or just 5 days with a negative test.

Now, a covid-19 test prior to departure to the United Kingdom, and taken within 72 hours of check in for your flight, or journey, is expected to become the most significant entry measure to date later this week, and will apply to visitors, but not cabin crew and a small variety of exemptions.

It’s expected that a negative PCR test will be the accepted standard, yet UK GOV has not specified. PCR tests are more accurate than most of the rapid covid-19 tests, but also more time consuming and expensive to obtain.

If you’ve been planning to visit the UK, it’s best to delay travel beyond the end of February 28th, 2021, when current lockdown restrictions are expected to end. Most non-essential outbound trips are also discouraged. Realistically, probably longer.

The UK was among the first in the world to begin massive vaccination initiatives, and hopes to have more than 4 million people vaccinated before the end of February. Until then, and perhaps sometime still thereafter, hardly anything in the UK is open, and the best advice is to stay home, and stay safe.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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