Arrivals are expected to be told to take tests two and eight days into their quarantine (Picture: PA/EPA/Getty Images)
All arrivals into the UK will have to take two coronavirus tests while they are isolating, in the latest effort to prevent mutant variants entering the country.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the move is designed to provide a ‘further level of protection’ by enabling new cases to be tracked more effectively.
It is set to be officially announced this week and expected to mean that people isolating at home will be told they must get a test two and eight days into their 10-day quarantine period.
Meanwhile, the Government is coming under renewed criticism for failing to follow the model of countries like New Zealand, nearly a year into the pandemic. From next week arrivals from some ‘red list’ countries will be made to isolate in ‘quarantine hotels’ – but the majority of countries are not on the list.
UK nationals returning from those 33 high-risk countries will be required to pay for their stay in closely monitored government-designated hotels, where they will have to take two tests.
Current rules require anyone coming into the UK – by plane, train or boat – to show proof of one negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry and to isolate for 10 days.
That test must be taken in the 72 hours before travelling, and anyone arriving without one faces a fine of up to £500.
A passenger pushes luggage through Heathrow’s Terminal 5 arrival hall in January (Picture: PA)
A DHSC spokesman said: ‘Throughout the pandemic, the Government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, that have led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.
‘Enhancing our testing regime to cover all arrivals while they isolate will provide a further level of protection and enable us to better track any new cases which might be brought into the country, and give us even more opportunities to detect new variants.’
Many other countries put harsher measures in place many months ago and countless cases in the UK were ‘seeded’ from arrivals to the country from abroad.
A formal announcement on the updated testing regime could come as early as Tuesday, when Health Secretary Matt Hancock updates MPs in a Commons statement on the pandemic.
The move comes as officials sought to reassure the public that vaccines should provide effective protection against people falling seriously ill from the new South African variant.
Meanwhile, the new rules on hotel quarantine are due to come into force next week, though the Government has yet to announce any agreement with any hotel chains on providing accommodation.
On Monday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said no formal contracts had yet been awarded after the Government issued commercial specifications last Thursday.
However, the Financial Times reported that ministers were said to be close to signing up a series of hotels near Heathrow, and were optimistic of agreeing deals with others around Manchester, Gatwick, Birmingham and London City airports.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds accused the Government of ‘incompetence yet again putting people at risk’.
He said on Monday: ‘It beggars belief that no agreements have been made with hotels, just a few days before the quarantining system is due to begin.
‘It will be over 50 days since the South African strain was identified and nearly a year since other countries have been successfully implementing hotel quarantine.
‘Even when these measures eventually do begin, scientists have made clear that the limited way they are being introduced will be insufficient to stop mutant strains of the virus reaching the UK, potentially putting the gains of the vaccine at risk.;
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