The government has announced a series of precautionary and temporary measures to further improve the UK’s ability to detect potential new variants of Covid from China, following an increase in cases there and the easing of their border measures next week.

Passengers arriving from China to England from 5 January will need to show a negative Covid-19 pre-departure test (PDT) taken no more than two days prior to departure.

Although there are no direct flights from China to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Government are working with devolved nations to ensure this is implemented UK-wide as soon as possible.

The decision has been taken to introduce these measures specifically for China arrivals due to a lack of comprehensive health information shared by China. The situation remains under review and the UK is working with China on next steps. If there are improvements in information sharing and greater transparency then temporary measures will be reviewed.

The volume of passengers from China remains low – however, as a precautionary measure, following the re-opening of Chinese borders in January, the government has announced that:

People travelling from mainland China on direct flights to England from Thursday 5 January will be asked to take a pre-departure Covid test.

The government is working with international partners at pace to determine scope and will announce further details in due course.

In addition, the UK Health Security Agency is launching surveillance from Sunday 8 January which will see a sample of passengers arriving in England from mainland China tested for Covid at the point of their arrival.

Airlines will be required to check all passengers from China have negative pre-departure tests, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result.

Passengers at Heathrow will be invited to take part in the study and all positive samples will be sent for sequencing. This will further enhance the UK’s ability to identify any new variants which may be circulating in China that could evade the immune response of those already vaccinated or which have the potential to successfully outcompete other variants and spread internationally.

England joins a growing list of countries across the world including US, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Spain, Malaysia and India in announcing measures which will help to detect and assess any new Covid variants.


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