The UK’s new travel restrictions mandating self-quarantine and PCR testing will go into effect from 04:00 GMT on Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the changes to the UK’s travel rules in a press conference on Saturday evening. Additional changes include mandatory masks on public transport and in shops amid concerns over the emerging ‘Omicron’ COVID variant.
UK travel rules set to change on Tuesday
Sweeping changes have been made to the UK’s travel requirements in the last few days to limit the spread of the new Omicron (B.1.1.529) COVID variant. While the UK’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, did not clarify when these new rules would come into force, the UK’s government website has said the changes will be in effect from 04:00 GMT on Tuesday.
“The reason we’ve set out these measures yesterday is to protect the progress we’ve made so we can all continue to enjoy Christmas with our families.”
Mr. Javid also clarified that masks will be mandatory in shops and on public transport from Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new rules were temporary and would be under review after three weeks.
Rule changes in detail
Self-quarantines and PCR tests are only a part of the changes made by the UK. The country has also resurrected its ‘red list‘ and added 10 African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia.
The UK’s changes in detail:
- All arrivals into the UK must take a PCR test by the end of the second day, regardless of vaccination status.
- Every traveler must enter self-isolation until they can show a negative result.
- Lateral flow (antigen) tests are no longer permitted; all tests must be PCR tests.
- All travelers must submit a passenger locator form within 48 hours before arrival.
- All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status.
Travelers from red list countries will not be allowed entry to the UK unless they are British or Irish citizens or residents. In that case, travelers will still need to undertake a 10-day quarantine at a government-approved hotel.
The UK government said,
“After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021, lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted and all travellers arriving into UK will be required to book and take COVID-19 PCR tests.”
Three positive cases for new variant in UK
Three cases of the Omicron variant have been discovered in the UK thus far, raising concerns that border restrictions may have little effect. The first two UK cases were found on Saturday in Brentwood and Nottingham, while a third case from an individual no longer in the UK has been discovered today.
The UK Health Security Agency said,
“[It is] very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days… as we increase case detection through focused contact tracing.”
The UK government has defended its changes as “swift and proportionate.” Early evidence suggests the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other COVID variants and may have better immune escape ability.
Prime Minister Johnson added,
“We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.”
What do you think about the UK’s new travel rules? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.