The requirement, which also applies to UK passport holders, was announced last Friday, but the government only indicated it would start sometime this week to allow Brits abroad time to adjust their plans.
On Monday, the Department for Transport gave that start date: Jan. 15, from 4 a.m.
The government says the new requirements will help stem the influx of new strains of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
On top of the new measures, arrivals from countries outside of the “air corridor” list will still have to quarantine for 10 days.
People will be subject to an immediate £500 ($680) fine if they fail to “present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.”
Passengers will have to present proof of the test to carriers and declare it on a form.
Transport operators will also be fined if they are found to have transported passengers who have not followed the rules.
“The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant,” the Department for Transport said in a statement.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in the statement, “Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence—helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”
England’s new rules will not affect travellers from other parts of the UK (which can set their own travel restrictions) or from Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, or Guernsey.
Children under the age of 11 are exempt.
The government said that the “very restricted number” of other exemptions includes flight crews and employees manning boats and trains.
The UK has been criticised for being both slow to shut down international travel in the first wave last spring, and for then dragging its feet in setting up testing systems that had allowed air travel to continue more smoothly in other nations.
The chief executive of Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said that while the new testing requirement was needed now, it should be only a short-term, emergency measure.
“Once the roll-out of the vaccine accelerates, the focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible in order to support the UK’s economic recovery,” he said in a statement.
“Ultimately, cheaper and quicker testing is required to ensure travel can be accessible while testing is required but then needs to be unwound once vaccinations and the overall threat of Covid recedes.”