Hauliers travelling to England from outside the UK for visits lasting more than two days will be tested for coronavirus, the Transport Secretary has announced.
Grant Shapps said that from April 6 hauliers, including drivers and crew of heavy goods vehicles and vans, will need to be tested within 48 hours of arriving and then every three days.
Announcing the news on Twitter on Sunday, he said: “This is to ensure we keep track of any future #Coronavirus Variants of Concern.”
Updated Government guidelines say hauliers face a £2,000 fine if they do not have proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
Those travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man – known as the Common Travel Area (CTA) – are not required to be tested unless they have been outside those areas in the 10 days before arriving in England.
There has been growing concern over the spread of South African and Brazilian variants of coronavirus in Europe as a third wave of Covid-19 sweeps across the continent.
Responding to the Government’s plans to test hauliers, Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said there were “significant gaps in the plan”.
She questioned why the rules will not be enforced until April 6, saying: “This is nearly two weeks after I raised it with the Prime Minister and he resisted.”
She said it is also nearly two months since concerns were first raised about the spread of the South Africa variant in France in mid-February, and more than three months since testing was introduced for hauliers leaving the UK.
“The Government still isn’t learning Covid lessons about the importance of acting fast. Delays risk lives,” she added.
Trade association Logistics UK said any testing regime must be proportionate as drivers are “a very low-risk category”.
Sarah Laouadi, European policy manager at Logistics UK, said: “We would urge the Government to maintain a watching brief on the testing regime to ensure it remains appropriate and reacts to the situation on the ground.”
The Road Haulage Association welcomed the news, with chief executive Richard Burnett describing it as “a completely fair system”.
When France required the testing of hauliers crossing the Channel in December it led to thousands of lorries being stranded in Kent while the arrangements were put in place.
Boris Johnson on Wednesday acknowledged there would be “very serious disruption” involved in any curtailing of cross-Channel trade.