Fines will only be issued to travellers without a negative Covid test from Monday (Image: PA)
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Strict new Covid travel rules on people coming into England have been delayed for three days despite mounting fears over the virus.
Anyone arriving in England was going to have to get a coronavirus test, and ensure the result is negative, from 4am tomorrow.
But late last night, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the requirement would only kick in at 4am on Monday.
He bizarrely announced the delay on Twitter with no formal government press release and it was unclear why it had happened.
Mr Shapps said the delay was “to give international arrivals time to prepare”. But the government had claimed it would be from this week.
Confusion then reigned today as a Home Office minister insisted the regulations WILL kick in at 4am on Friday. Victoria Atkins told the BBC the law would begin on time, but “there will be a grace period in terms of fines being issued over the weekend”.
Grant Shapps bizarrely announced the news at 11pm on Twitter
Commons Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper said the delay was “truly shocking”.
She tweeted: “Questioned PM repeatedly today on why border testing/quarantine is weaker than other countries.
“Repeatedly he said Govt is bringing in new testing (months later than elsewhere but due Fri).
“But now it’s not. More delays. As they haven’t published guidance in time.”
It comes despite fears over another new variant of coronavirus believed to have originated in Brazil, along with one originating in South Africa.
A patient lies on a trolley at the entrance of the Vinte Oito de Agosto Public Hospital in Manaus, Brazil
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson yesterday said he was “concerned” about the strain, already detected in Japan. And Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said “we don’t know” if it will have any resistance to a vaccine.
The UK government is expected to announce a full travel ban from several South American nations later today.
This would be separate to the delayed requirement for inbound travellers to have a negative Covid test result.
The Times reported the ban will likely include Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia. A No 10 source told the Mirror: “It’s moving very quickly in that direction.”
However, as of 8am today, people can still travel to England from Brazil and do not need a negative Covid-19 result before they arrive.
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The Department of Health is not yet thought to have been told of any cases of the new ‘Brazil’ variant in the UK.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said "practical measures" were being worked on.
She told Sky News: "This variant has been spotted and it is not unusual for viruses to develop variations in their strains.
“But in terms of the UK, we are monitoring it very, very carefully, we have a world-leading team of scientists working on the different forms of the virus.
“And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, in terms of practical measures, they are being worked on at the moment and no doubt we will hear more in due course as to measures to help deal with that."
In a statement on Twitter, Mr Shapps said: 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."
Travellers will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.
New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine, while the operator who transported them will also be fined.
Passengers will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results.
Travellers will have to take an internationally approved test and guidance released by the Department for Transport said they could include PCR tests, nasal and throat swab tests which take between 12 and 24 hours to return results.
Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests, which can return results in two to three hours, and lateral flow tests which generate results in less than 30 minutes are also acceptable.
Results can be produced as physical documents or by email or text, but must be in English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.
British nationals attempting to return home who test positive must not travel and must follow the local guidance in their host country, and contact the nearest consulate if they need support.
Scotland is also set to adopt the same approach to international travellers, while Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to announce their own plans for pre-arrival testing in the coming days.