All international arrivals to the UK will need to pass a Covid-19 test before departure to tackle the new Omicron variant, the Health Secretary said. Sajid Javid said tougher requirements would go into effect from 4 a.m. on Tuesday, December 7.
Travelers will need to show proof of negative lateral flow or PCR testing to enter, which should have been completed no more than 48 hours prior to departure time. People currently only need to self-isolate until they test negative within two days of arriving.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have also confirmed that people arriving in Scotland and Wales from abroad will also need to take a Covid test before departure.
Nigeria will also be added to England, Scotland and Wales travel red lists, joining several other countries in southern Africa.
Javid said on Twitter that in light of the most recent data, the government is “taking further steps to slow the incursion” of the variant and stressed that vaccines remain the “first line of defense,” urging the public to have his reminders when offered.
The introduction of pre-departure testing for travelers entering the UK has been called a “devastating blow” to the travel industry by the CEO of the Airport Operators Association. Karen Dee told PA Media the policy would act as a “major deterrent” to travel. “It is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said.
âPre-departure testing has a major deterrent effect on travel and most of the limited remaining demand after the reintroduction of self-isolation will now disappear, just as airports were hoping for a small increase over the Christmas holidays.
âTravel and aviation are the only industries affected by operating restrictions in response to the Omicron variant. The UK and decentralized governments should have done the right thing and alongside the restrictions announced support for our businesses and staff to get through another period of closure. “
Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade called the move “premature”. He said, âWe don’t have the clinical evidence. Extending the redlist made perfect sense – that’s what it’s here for – but we know from experience that general restrictions don’t stop the import of variants.
âIt’s already there. They have now changed their travel tips twice in a week and it is simply not possible for anyone to plan. These measures must be lifted as quickly as possible depending on the pace of the stimulus program. “
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter that he understands the move will be difficult for the travel industry. He tweeted: âAs scientists work to understand the new variant of Omicron, we need to be more careful until the picture is clearer. We understand that this will be difficult for the travel industry as we prioritize public health and protect the progress of our premier vax and recall program. “
Meanwhile, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting tweeted: âFinally, the Health Secretary accepts Labor’s call for pre-departure testing, but why up to 48 hours before the flight?
He also called for new measures, including increasing the number of reminders administered to 500,000 per day.