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UK to require negative tests for China arrivals

From January 5, arrivals at Heathrow from China will need a negative Covid test.

The United Kingdom will require a negative departure test for travel from mainland China to England from next month.

The British government announced on Friday that from January 5, passengers on direct flights from China will need to present a negative test taken within 48 hours of departure when they check-in, with the onus on airlines to check paperwork. Spot arrival tests will also begin from January 8 and positive samples will be sent away for sequencing.

So far there is no mention of flights from Hong Kong being included in the directive.

At this stage the directive is not UK-wide and does not apply to the devolved nations, but in reality all China flights land in England. The government is working with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure a UK-wide policy.

According to UK health secretary Steve Barclay, the British government was taking a “balanced and precautionary approach.” The government said the decision was temporary and under continuous review but had been made due to a lack of “comprehensive health information shared by China.”

Fears of mutations

Although testing will not prevent new Covid variants from reaching the UK, there is concern that a more infectious mutation may occur given the numbers of Chinese, many unvaccinated, now exposed to the disease. According to China’s foreign ministry, the epidemic situation is “under control” but analysts say Covid numbers are being vastly undercounted. It’s feared there could be as many as a million new cases a day, a dramatic difference to the officially reported 5,000 cases.

Since the UK announcement, Spain and France have also said they will be introducing similar travel restrictions, although so far no start date has been given. Both Spain and France will require a negative test taken within 48 hours of departure from China. Spain, along with Italy, will also be testing post-arrival. There has been no mention of arrivals from Hong Kong being affected.

Earlier this week, the US, Japan, India, South Korea and Malaysia announced testing requirements, some affecting Hong Kong.

China will open its borders from January 8, when quarantine for inbound passengers will be axed, visas and passports will again be issued to its population and the border with Hong Kong will finally open up.

More information about the UK regulations can be found on the government website.

Read more about China travel restrictions

From January 5, Hong Kongers will need a negative test result to enter the US.

Flights to Japan have been restricted with new travel curbs imposed.

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