TRAVELLERS must now have an additional two coronavirus tests when entering the UK – with fines up to £2,000 if they refuse, the Health Secretary has warned.
Matt Hancock explained the new restrictions are part of the latest measures to prevent the spread of mutant Covid strains in the UK.
The new rules will affect all arrivals, whether quarantining at home or at a quarantine hotel, from February 15.
He explained: "From Monday, all international arrivals whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take further PCR tests on day 2 and day 8 of that quarantine.
"Passengers will have to book those tests through our online portal before they travel. Anyone planning to travel to the UK from Monday needs to book these tests."
This means a test will now need to be taken three times – one before returning to the UK, one on day two of quarantine and one on day eight.
Travellers will have to take a PCR test each, booked through the online portal before travelling which will be live from Thursday.
One of the pricier testing options, which can cost as much as £120, it will make a family holiday much more expensive.
Anyone who fails to take the first test will be fined £1,000, which will go up to £2,000 if failing to take the second test.
If any of the tests are positive, then a quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test will be enforced.
He added: "If either of these post arrival tests comes back positive, they'll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test, and will of course be offered any NHS treatment that's necessary.
"Any positive result will automatically undergo genomic sequencing to confirm whether they have a variant of concern."
The government is enforcing the new restrictions to reduce the spread of mutant Covid strains, including the South African variant.
Fears have been raised over the effect of the vaccines, developed before the variants appeared, on the mutations, although a small study has found that the Pfizer Covid vaccine is still effective against the South African strain.
The current travel rules require a negative Covid test from all arrivals already, taken no more than 72 hours before travel, as well as a Passenger Locator Form.
All arrivals must also quarantine for 10 days, although can leave early if they have a second test on day five at their own expense.
The Test and Release scheme will remain in place, but people will still need a test on day eight as well – meaning a total of four Covid tests.
If arriving from a "high-risk" country however, which includes Portugal, the UAE, South America and South African nations, you are not allowed to leave the 10 day quarantine – and will have to pay to quarantine at a hotel.
From February 15, the quarantine hotel rules will be enforced, which will cost £1,750 per person, which will have to be booked before travel.
Passengers could face staying longer if they test positive during their stay at the hotel, and will face £10k fines if they breach the hotel quarantine rules.
16 hotels are involved in the new scheme with 5,600 rooms available, which will be closed to non-high-risk passengers.
Travellers from the countries on the red list could even face being segregated from other passengers on planes to prevent them from mixing, according to the Times.
Airlines could be forced to reserve parts of the cabin for passengers from others, as well as keep them apart from each other during the flight.
With most flights operating at much lower capacity, this could be enforceable, but will require staff to maintain restrictions while en route to the UK.
Other travel restrictions to be discussed include vaccine passports, which would show the traveller had been given the jab.
Holidaymakers who have been given the Covid vaccine could get a QR code as proof so they can travel abroad.
Ministers are said to be working on a targeted vaccine passport scheme that will allow vaccinated Brits to return to a more normal life – with countries such as Greece suggesting they could allow tourists to visit too.
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