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Pre-departure Covid tests re-introduced for UK arrivals

Written by: Emma Lunn
Travellers face inflated holiday costs after the government reinstated pre-departure coronavirus tests for anyone travelling to the UK.

The new rules kick in from 4am tomorrow (Tuesday 7 December) and travellers must show a negative lateral flow or PCR test, taken within 48 hours of departure, to be allowed to travel to the UK. The rules apply to vaccinated as well as unvaccinated travellers, and children over the age of 12.

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.

Last weekend, 10 countries were added to the red list and it was announced that all vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK must take a day two PCR tests and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Travellers will understand the need for government to introduce public health measures, however constantly changing rules at the last minute leaves passengers footing the bill. In some destinations, it will be difficult for people to secure tests at such short notice.

“For those who do test positive abroad, they should first and foremost follow local health guidelines. This will likely require quarantining in your existing hotel or at government accommodation. In some countries, travellers will have to pay for quarantine, and some travel insurance providers can help with this. Travellers should also check the flexible booking policy of their airline to rearrange flights.”

Nigeria added to red list

The government has also added Nigeria to the travel red list, meaning anyone arriving in the UK from Nigeria will need to stay in hotel quarantine for 10 days. Countries started being added to the red list on 26 November after the Omicron Covid variant was identified as a variant of concern.

The government said there were 21 cases of Omicron reported in England which are linked to travel from Nigeria, with 134 UK cases now reported in total.

From 4am today, UK and Irish citizens and residents arriving from Nigeria must isolate in a government-approved managed quarantine facility for 10 days, and receive two negative PCR tests.

However, the government warned that quarantine hotel bookings may be limited but said it was “working at pace” to expand capacity.

A temporary travel ban has been introduced for all non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria in the past 10 days, meaning they will be refused entry into the UK. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through Nigeria while changing flights.

Protecting public health

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, 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.”

The next review of the UK travel rules is scheduled for 20 December.

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