The UK is to adjust the entry criteria to the country, with testing to be required.
From Tuesday 7th December you will require, evidence of a negative lateral flow or PCR test before you travel to the United Kingdom. This test needs to be taken up to 48 hours before your intended departure time to the UK.
At the time of writing, when arriving in the United Kingdom, you are required to complete a Day 2 PCR test (which can be taken before that point) and self-isolate for at least two days until a negative result is achieved.
According to the government,
“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.
In light of this emerging evidence and the changing global picture with regards to the spread of Omicron, from 4am on Tuesday, anyone wishing to travel to the UK from countries and territories not on the red list must also show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test, taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and above.”
Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form, and 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 and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.
Red List gets updated too
Nigeria will join the Red List too at this point, with arrivals restricted to UK and Irish Residents (and some exceptions). These arrivals will need to enter managed quarantine service for 10 days, with Day 2 and Day 8 tests.
Anyone arriving from Nigeria before 4 am Monday 6 December will be advised and strongly encouraged to isolate at home, and their household should also self-isolate for 10 days starting with their arrival in England.
Affected individuals will be contacted and offered free PCR tests to be taken on day 8 after their arrival.
All temporary measures will be reviewed after three weeks to ensure that they remain necessary and proportionate, and this will take place on 20 December.
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.
As our world-leading scientists continue to understand more about the Omicron variant we are taking decisive action to protect public health and the progress of our COVID-19 vaccination programme.
I urge everyone to do their bit to slow the spread by following the new travel rules, wearing masks where mandatory and most importantly getting the booster jab when called.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:
Following developments in the past week, the science shows that 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.
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.
Hotel Capacity remains limited however
It seems with the expansion of the red list, its caught the government with its pants down on how much capacity they have for the managed quarantine service.
Travellers should not attempt to travel to the UK from a red list country without a Managed Quarantine Service booking, as they will not be able to board a flight and could be subject to a fixed penalty notice at the UK border.
The government’s advice is to keep checking the CTM website as there are a significant number of cancellations happening which will free up rooms.
The MQS has contracted several new hotels to enter service this week, in response to the likely numbers of UK residents who will want to travel from Nigeria before Christmas.
In the Sky News article, Sajid Javid, Health Secretary he acknowledges that the measures are “hugely unfortunate” for people who already had travel plans but insists they will be “temporary”.
Meanwhile, Grant Shapps has taken to Twitter, stating:
As the scientists work to understand new Omicron variant we need to apply additional caution until picture is clearer. We appreciate this will be difficult for the travel sector as we prioritise public health & protect the progress of our world-leading vax & booster programme 💉— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 4, 2021
Travel has got a lot more harder
For those currently abroad, it’s going to mean sourcing tests that could be rather expensive, rather quickly. In addition, testing companies will have to re-scale their testing programmes and offerings again. For those planning to go abroad, constant checking and vigilance will be required to ensure you meet both the country you’re entering requirements, as well as the return requirements – which are constantly shifting.
For the travel industry, it’s going to scare people off from travelling as the burden of testing will add additional cost for those who have winter breaks planned – or in some cases – abandon them completely due to the testing and quarantine required now.
The makings of a cruel winter for the travel industry? I wouldn’t say no sadly.