The UK has increased corona measures for those travelling from and to the UK in light of the Omicron variant.
These new measures were announced on Saturday by UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. And will come into force from 4.00 am on Tuesday, December 7.
This now means, anyone aged 12 and over must take a Covid test up to two days prior to arriving back in the UK. This must be as close to departure as possible. And, therefore, not more than 48 hours before to slow the importation of the new variant.
Also, this is regardless of whether fully vaccinated or not. Furthermore, the test can either be a PCR or a lateral flow.
Initially, travellers were advised to book a test before their return to the UK. This was to be carried out within 48 hours after arrival. During which time, self-isolation was required pending a negative result. Indeed, just a few days ago, according to the British press, Shapps indicated that reintroducing pre-departure tests could “kill off the travel sector again”.
However, the U-turn happened as the SAGE group of scientists warned pre-departure tests “are valuable in identifying potentially infectious people.”
Shapps advised, “following developments in the past week, science shows we must be cautious in guarding against this new variant. And so, while we appreciate this will be difficult for the travel sector, it’s important we prioritise public health.”
He continued, “as we learn more about the Omicron variant, we will review these temporary measures to ensure they continue to be proportionate and necessary to protect public health. These are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK. And, furthermore, will be examined at the three-week review point on 20 December.”
Grant Shapps Tweeted official news of the updated travel measures. He stated, “as the scientists work to understand new Omicron variant we must apply additional caution until the picture is clearer.”
- From 4.00 am on Tuesday 7 December all passengers aged 12 + MUST take a covid test up to 2 days before departure to England.
- Can either be a PCR or a lateral flow
- Applies regardless of vaccination status
Full details are also set out on the official UK Government website.
Increased corona measures for travel
New analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which increases the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.
Considering this emerging evidence and the changing global picture with regards to the spread of Omicron, from 4,00 am on Tuesday, airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form. Consequently, passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result. Given the reduced incubation period of the Omicron variant, passengers are advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK. But no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, said: “We knew this winter would be challenging. But the arrival of a new variant means we must further strengthen our defences”.