People travelling from China to England will have to provide a negative Covid test before they board a flight, ministers have confirmed.
From January 5 passengers will have to show a negative test before departing in a move described as “balanced and precautionary” by the government.
It comes after the US and several other countries introduced mandatory testing for travellers from China, amid concerns about surging cases in the country.
The department of health said the measures, which include plans for surveillance testing of a sample of passengers, would be kept under “regular review”.
It shows a marked departure from confusing messages that had come from the UK government in recent days.
Downing Street initially suggested that travellers from China would not be screened for Covid.
Government sources had played down any suggestions an announcement was imminent and yesterday said there were no plans to introduce requirements for travellers from China.
However, concerns have grown about surging case numbers in China, as Beijing announced plans to start reissuing passports and visas for overseas trips.
The government said China had failed to fully share information on the situation there, as cases soared after it relaxed its tough Covid-19 restrictions.
Responsibility will lie with airlines to check passengers’ negative tests, the department of health said.
“As Covid cases in China rise ahead of them reopening their borders next week, it is right for us to take a balanced and precautionary approach by announcing these temporary measures while we assess the data,” health secretary Steve Barclay said.
“This allows our world-leading scientists at the UK Health Security Agency to gain rapid insight into potential new variants circulating in China.”
The UK Health Security Agency will carry out the surveillance testing from January 8.