New rules would apply to those arriving by plane, ferry and train as cases surge
Foreign travelers could be required to show a negative test for the novel coronavirus before being allowed into the United Kingdom under plans to control the surge in cases.
Ministers are considering introducing the requirement for international arrivals to have a negative test in the 72 hours before traveling to Britain.
The move would bring the UK in line with other countries and would mark a significant toughening of the rules.
The measure is among several being considered to “prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the UK border”, according to a statement by the Department for Transport, or DfT.
The discussions come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England to prevent the National Health Service, or NHS, being overwhelmed.
On Tuesday, for the first time the number of new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK topped 60,000 and figures from the Office for National Statistics suggested one in 50 people in private households in England had the virus last week, rising to one in 30 in London.
The new travel rules would apply to those arriving by plane, ferry and train but UK nationals and those who live there will be exempt. It is thought that haulage drivers coming through ports would also be exempt.
“Additional measures, including testing before departure, will help keep the importation of new cases to an absolute minimum,” the DfT said, adding that agreement would be needed with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make it a UK-wide regulation.
A spokesperson said: “With a new strain of the virus on the loose in South Africa and a more infectious variant already widespread in the UK, we need to do more.”
In a series of broadcast interviews on Tuesday, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said announcements would come soon on “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 traveling abroad,” he told ITV.
Amid growing concern over the urgency of the UK rollout of novel coronavirus vaccines, The Daily Telegraph reported that Public Health England, or PHE, has decided not to work on Sundays to deliver the supplies to NHS hospitals.
It noted that this is despite Johnson’s pledge to use “every second” to put an “invisible shield “around the vulnerable through mass vaccination.
However, an NHS source told the newspaper that PHE was expected to move to a seven-day schedule once further vaccine supplies were available.
Scotland intends to accelerate its vaccine rollout program if supplies of the jab allow it to do so, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
According to a BBC report, the Scottish NHS hopes to vaccinate everyone over the age of 50 and younger people with underlying health conditions by the start of May.
The BBC announced it will offer significantly more television airtime to educational programs for children, in response to the latest UK lockdown and school closures.
It said all children will be able to access curriculum-based learning, even if they do not have access to the internet.
“Education is absolutely vital－the BBC is here to play its part and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly,” said Tim Davie, director general of BBC.
On Wednesday, Johnson said schools may reopen after the February half-term break but remained “cautious” about that prospect. Speaking in the House of Commons, he said the country would not emerge from its current “cocoon” in a “big bang”, but in “a gradual unwrapping”.
School closure policies remain mixed elsewhere in Europe. They are still closed in Germany and Netherlands, while in Spain, Sweden, France and Switzerland they have stayed open. In Greece, primary schools are set to reopen on Jan 11, the Athens News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, The Florence Nightingale Museum in London, which celebrates the history of nursing and tells the story of the historic healthcare pioneer, has announced it will close for the “foreseeable future” due to the impact of the pandemic.
A review of the museum’s operations will take place in a bid to protect its collections and the institution for the long term.
Director of the museum, David Green, said the closure and review were “vital to ensure that it has a future”. The organization stated that with admissions and souvenir sales accounting for 98 percent of earnings, it has struggled to meet its operational costs.