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Omicron variant: What are the latest travel rules?

·3 min read

The spread of the Omicron variant, which emerged in southern Africa, has prompted the Government to make changes to travel rules.

Here’s the latest rules on travel, and what they were before:

– What are the latest rules?

From 4am on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status.

Nigeria was also added to the Government’s travel red list.

From 4am on Monday, only British and Irish nationals travelling from the country will be allowed into the UK and must isolate in a Government-managed quarantine hotel for 10 days.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

– Why have the new rules on testing been introduced?

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said new analysis by the UK Health and Security Agency (HSA) suggested the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, increasing the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.

The HSA said that as of Saturday a further 26 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK – 25 of them in England.

It takes the total number of confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 160.

– What are the current rules?

Last week, the introduction of compulsory PCR tests for Covid-19 for everyone arriving in the UK was announced.

Ten countries were added to the red list and it was announced that all vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK must take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result

The list consisted of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

– How has this changed since the summer?

All travellers coming to the UK must fill in a passenger locator form – even if they are just passing through – which they need to fill in 48 hours or less before their journey.

Fully vaccinated passengers travelling to the UK from many countries do not have to take a Covid test before travelling.

Back in August there was a risk-based traffic light system in place which determined the testing and quarantine requirements for arrivals into the UK.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

Anyone arriving from green list countries were exempt from quarantine, while those who were fully vaccinated were exempt upon arriving from amber countries.

Those who had not had both doses of the vaccine had to self-isolate for 10 days, and take two post-arrival PCR tests.

Arrivals from red list countries had to stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days.

In October, the amber and green lists were scrapped and countries and territories are categorised as either red or the rest of the world.

By the end of the month, all countries were removed from the UK’s red list in line with public health advice.

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