Travellers arriving in England from abroad will now be required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test from 4am on Monday 18 January 2021.
Transport secretary Grant Schapps said on Twitter the rules will take effect on Monday in order to “give international arrivals time to prepare.”
From 4am on 18 January, any passengers who do not present proof of a negative test result, may be denied boarding and could be fined £500 ($683) on arrival into England.
UPDATE: To give international arrivals time to prepare ⏱️ passengers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure to England from MONDAY 18 JANUARY at 4am 📅
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) January 13, 2021
Travellers arriving from countries that are not on the travel corridors list in the 10 days before arriving in England, will still need to self-isolate, regardless of their pre-departure test result, according to government guidelines.
The boss of the UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow, warned against the longterm use of the new coronavirus testing rules on people arriving in England.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that the measures can “only be temporary” and the government must plan for how to end it.
“We need to have a roadmap for how we get out of this because aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation.”
Holland-Kaye told BBC Radio last week, that vaccination programmes in Britain and other nations gave him hope for a recovery in the travel sector later this year.
He said that flights will “start to come back” and passenger numbers “building up through the summer and then into the autumn.”
COVID-19 has hit the aviation industry hard, with a slew of airlines folding, and others forced to shed jobs and embark on major cost-cutting drives.
Heathrow airport had announced in December that it will keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of next year as COVID-19 continues to affect travel.
Terminal 4 was closed during the first national lockdown. The decision saw airlines such as KLM, Air France (AF.PA) and Etihad move to Terminal 2.
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Meanwhile, passenger numbers at the airport fell by 88% as travel restrictions and further lockdowns took their toll. Cargo flights were also down.
COVID-19 saw Heathrow, which made losses of £1.5bn ($2bn) in 2020, significantly revise down its 2021 forecasts. Revenue slid 72% year-on-year to £239m.
As well as being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, airlines operating in the UK are also facing post-Brexit issues around flying across the EU.
For airlines with fewer than 50% EU-based shareholders, flights within the European Union will now require a new agreement by the end of this year.
The required changes in shareholder ownership “adds additional cost and complexity,” at at time when the global aviation sector is suffering huge losses due to COVID-19, independent aviation analyst John Strickland told AFP.
Airlines have already faced extra costs over the need for new operating licences to continue flying in the UK and the EU in the wake of Brexit.
Ryanair shares were up 1.3% and EasyJet shares were up 2% on Thursday in early trade in London.