Decision on Covid checks at UK airports within days - Michael Gove

Barney Davis
·3-min read
<p>British travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after they were refused entry onto planes, at London's Heathrow airport </p> (AP)

British travelers returning to their homes in Spain wait to speak to airline staff after they were refused entry onto planes, at London's Heathrow airport


A decision on whether the UK will demand a negative Covid test for travellers entering the country will be made public in the coming days, Michael Gove said on Tuesday.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We will be making announcements later today and in the days ahead about how we will make sure that our ports and airports are safe.

“It is already the case that there are significant restrictions on people coming into this country and of course we’re stressing that nobody should be travelling abroad.

“But I don’t want to pre-empt the specific advice that is going to be given.”

Mr Gove told LBC that any new international travel restrictions will go further than banning flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new coronavirus strain.

"We want to make sure that they are as safe as possible, so we are reviewing what the appropriate restrictions might be," said Mr Gove.

"You'll appreciate that there are some journeys that do need to be made for vital commercial reasons, to make sure that we've got drugs in our hospitals, food on our shelves and so on, so it's not as simple as a blanket restriction.

“It is making sure that we have the safest possible approach and that involves reviewing how our ports and airports work.”

Fewer than 1.9 million flyers boarded Ryanair flights in December, as the impact of Covid-19 on airlines continued over the Christmas period.

Ryanair said that its passenger number dropped by 83 per cent last month, compared with the year before, in another major blow to the airline industry.

Mr Gove’s announcement came after Boris Johnson plunged England into the toughest lockdown restrictions since March last year.

Some commentators have criticised the Government’s handling of the pandemic that has seen tough domestic restrictions but few checks on travellers entering the country.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said ministers must “get a grip” on people arriving in the UK from abroad to stop the spread of coronavirus ahead of the lockdown.

Mr Khan demanded stricter quarantining and testing regimes, saying: “Other countries that have been affected have not allowed people to come in unless they properly quarantine for a period of time and there is proper testing.

“If you compare and contrast what happens at our airports in relation to the airports in, for example, Seoul, there is a big difference.

“So I’m really frustrated, as the mayor of a city with a number of airports serving us – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City, plus the Eurostar – at the ease with which people can come in to our city, potentially with new strains of the virus.

“And that’s what we’ve been calling on the Government to make sure they stop the virus coming in through other means, and that’s why it is really important for them also to get a grip with international travel in relation to this virus.”

He added: “I’m asking for much more strict controls in relation to those arriving in our country, including not least far more testing at the point of arrival and proper quarantining before they leave the airport firstly for the testing and before they can leave their homes.”

All schools and colleges in England will be closed until after the February half-term, except for children of key workers and the vulnerable. However, early years settings such as nurseries, alternative provision and special schools will remain open.

People will be required to stay at home except in specific circumstances, including for food shopping, caregiving, medical care, exercise, and fleeing violence.

The Prime Minister also said everyone should work from home unless it is impossible to do so, for example those in construction or key workers.