All travellers entering the UK will undergo a double-testing regime, the government is expected to announce next week, as part of quarantine plans to reduce the spread of new coronavirus variants.
The UK had already announced that passengers coming from countries on the government’s “red list” – a group of 33 high-risk nations – will have to take two tests during their 10-day stay at a quarantine hotel.
It is understood that this testing requirement will now be extended to all travellers coming from overseas.
The new hotel quarantine rules come into force on 15 February.
Many of those quarantining are likely to be British citizens and those with residence rights who are still allowed to return home. They will have to quarantine at home, while also taking a test on the second and eighth day of isolation, like those staying in hotels.
The development was first reported in the Telegraph on Friday, and was not denied by the Department of Health and Social Care.
The new testing programme will mean all travellers must take three tests – one in the 72-hour period before they travel to the UK and then two more.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, the government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, that has led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.
“It is important the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives.
“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.”
They added that more details of the mandatory quarantine and testing system will be outlined soon.
With less than 10 days to go before the new hotel quarantine plans come into effect, government officials are said to be scrambling to secure hotel rooms and other services to get the system up and running.
There may be further changes to the government’s travel ban list, which currently includes much of South America, Portugal and the UAE.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Friday: “We’ll be vigilant in making sure that the hotel quarantine that we’re introducing applies to the right countries where we see these new variants.”