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Hauliers entering the UK without proof of a negative Covid-19 test could be fined £2,000 from April 6, the government is warning.

Announcing the move, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it would help keep track of any future coronavirus variants of concern.

The new rule applies to HGV drivers and crews and drivers of vans and light goods vehicles. It also applies to both UK-based and non-UK hauliers.

In a related move, the government is also making it a legal requirement for all hauliers arriving in England to self-isolate in their cabs while they are in the country, unless they have to leave it for one of several specified reasons, such as the need to buy food.

Hauliers arriving in England from abroad will need to take lateral flow Covid-19 test if they are staying for more than two days, with the first test taken within the first two days, then further tests every three days.

However, hauliers do not need to take a test if they are in England for two days or less, a decision criticised by Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Commons home affairs committee.

“Given the potential risks from the South Africa variant to the vaccine rollout and the route out of lockdown, ministers should be acting much faster and being much more vigilant than this,” she said.

These rules do not apply to hauliers arriving in England from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man - known as the Common Travel Area (CTA) - unless a haulier has been outside the CTA in the ten days before arriving in England, in which case a test must be taken.

Tests will be available at the usual testing centres, or at dedicated testing sites set up for hauliers:

If a driver or crew tests positive, they will be required to take a more accurate PCR test for confirmation.

Once confirmed as positive, drivers will be asked to self-isolate at home in the UK, or, for non-resident drivers, free accommodation will be provided in an hotel in the UK for the duration of the isolation period.

The RHA welcomed the move with chief executive Richard Burnett saying: “The UK vaccination scheme is most definitely working but we cannot let our safety regimes and procedures slip.

“This latest legislation will apply to all commercial drivers, whether they are returning from, or originating from the EU.

"It’s a completely fair system and will keep the GB and the EU member states protected as we all embark upon the road to recovery.”