UK to close all travel corridors from Monday amid Covid variant fears

15 January 2021, 17:08 | Updated: 16 January 2021, 13:36

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The UK will close all its travel corridors from 4am on Monday meaning any arrivals will need to self-isolate, Boris Johnson has announced.

Speaking during Friday's coronavirus press conference at Downing Street, the prime minister said the measure was being introduced in a bid to protect the UK against new variants.

The move ends the quarantine exemption for arrivals from selected nations and means people must provide evidence of a negative test from within the previous 72 hours before being let into the country.

However, they must immediately self-isolate for 10 days upon landing in Britain, however if that individual tests negative after five days they can leave their quarantine.

It comes roughly 24 hours after the government announced a ban on flights from South America, Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal due to Brazil's new Covid strain.

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Boris Johnson said the UK will close all its travel corridors from Monday morning
Boris Johnson said the UK will close all its travel corridors from Monday morning. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson told the Downing Street press conference: "It's precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country.

"Yesterday we announced that we're banning flights from South America and Portugal.

"And to protect us against the risk from as-yet-unidentified strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 4am on Monday.

"Following conversations with the devolved administrations, we will act together so this applies across the whole of the UK."

Read more: UK bans flights from Brazil, Portugal and 14 other nations over variant

Read more: Brazil Covid strain: What is the new variant? Have flights been stopped?

Writing on Twitter as the announcement was made, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said travel restrictions were being tightened as it is "impossible" for scientists to react quickly to where new variants are emerging.

He told his followers: "Travel Corridors assess public health risk from the original SARS-COV-2, but it’s impossible for the Joint Biosecurity Centre to provide live scientific updates to predict which countries or regions will now originate new variants.

"Travel Corridors are therefore suspended for now. The suspension comes into force from 4.00am on Monday."

Mr Shapps said there will be more enforcement checks at borders and fewer people will be exempt.

"International arrivals will need to have a negative COVID-19 test & self-isolate for 10 days or Test to Release after 5," he added.

"This action will slow the spread of new variants whilst millions receive their vaccinations."

People arriving in the UK from a destination with a travel corridor are currently exempt from the 10-day quarantine requirement.

However, the new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken at least five days after they enter Britain.

It had already been announced that travellers arriving in England and Scotland from Monday will need to have a negative test taken up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said travel corridors were a "lifeline" for the travel industry when they were introduced in summer 2020.

He acknowledged that "things change" and it is the correct decision to remove them, but added that restrictions should be eased again "when it is safe to do so".

Joss Croft, chief executive of inbound tourism body UKinbound, said: "Consumer safety is paramount and although the removal of all travel corridors is regrettable, given the current trajectory of the virus it's an understandable decision."

Mr Johnson said people must also fill in their Passenger Locator Forms before entry to the UK, adding that airlines will ask travellers for proof of this and a negative test before take-off.

He said checks may be made when people land and anyone refusing to comply could face a substantial fine.

The prime minister said it is "vital" to introduce extra measures "now, when day by day, hour by hour, we are making such strides in protecting the population".

"We have now vaccinated over 3.2 million people across the UK, doubling the numbers of last week," he added.

"That’s 2.8 million in England, 225,000 in Scotland, 126,000 in Wales and 115,000 in Northern Ireland.

"Yesterday alone, we vaccinated around a quarter of a million people in England, and that is still far more than any other country in Europe.

"And with almost 45 per cent of our over 80s now vaccinated, and almost 40 per cent of care home residents, we are steadily protecting those most at risk."

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